The arraignment of the Managing Director of Access Bank Plc, Mr Herbert Nwigwe and eight others by the Special Fraud Unit of Nigeria Police over allegation of $6.3 million fraud before a Lagos High Court, Ikeja has been stalled due to absence of some the defendants.
Nwigwe is standing trial along with Cast Oil and Gas Ltd, Seyi Sanni, Adekunle Adebayo, Access Bank Plc, Titi Oshontoki, Chinyere Bishop-Adigwe, Sunny Amos Affiong and Augusta Energy Nigeria Ltd for allegedly defrauding former Petroleum Minister, Chief Don Etiebet, through his company, Top Oil and Gas Development Ltd.
The Police in a four-count charge alleged that the defendants and Augusta Energy of Geneva Switzerland (still at large) between January and December 2015, in Lagos, fraudulently induced Top Oil and Gas Development Ltd, to invest about $6.3m in the supply of a 10,000 metric tonnes of Automative Gas Oil, Ago.
The police claimed that after taking delivery of the AGO, the defendants allegedly converted the product to their own use and benefits.
Part of the charge reads: “That you Cast Oil & Gas Ltd, Seyi Sanni, Adekunle Adebayo, Access Bank Plc, Herbert Nwigwe, Titi Oshontoki, Chinyere Bishop Adigwe, Sunny Amos Offiong, Augusta Energy Nig. Ltd.–ancl Tunji Amushan (-at large) between January and December, 2015, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, by deceit, conspired with one another and with Augusta Energy of Geneva, Switzerland, to defraud Top Oil & Gas Development Ltd., to the tune of over 6.3 miilion United States of America Dollars.”
Nwigwe and four other defendants were absent in court on Thursday.
Nwigwe’s lawyer, Mr Paul Usoro, SAN, however, informed the court of a pending application dated April 30, 2019, he filed on behalf of his client challenging the jurisdiction of the court to determine the matter.
Following objection by Police counsel, Emmanuel Jackson that he had not been served the application, trial judge, Justice Oshodi instructed Usoro to serve him a copy in court.
Justice Oshodi, however, observed that the proceeding could not go on since all the defendants were not in court.
He subsequently adjourned the case till June 3, 2019 for hearing of the preliminary objection raised by Nwigwe.
Recall that Etiebet, who is also a shareholder in Access Bank, had earlier petitioned the Security and Exchange Commission, SEC, asking for nullification of Access Bank’s merger deal with Diamond Bank over the alleged criminal action pending at Lagos and Ogun State High Courts.