1.6BIL FRAUD: OMOKORE’S CO-DEFENDANTS GAVE STATEMENT VOLUNTARILY- WITNESS

Alleged N1.6bn Fraud: Omokore’s Co-Defendant Gave Statements Voluntarily, says Witness

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The trial-within-trial of Victor Briggs, who is standing trial along with Jide Omokore, Chairman of Atlantic Energy Brass Development, for an alleged $1.6 billion oil fraud, continued on February 6, 2019 before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of a Federal High Court, Abuja, with a prosecution witness testifying that he gave his statements voluntarily.

Briggs, a former managing director of Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, had earlier claimed that the statements he gave under interrogation by the EFCC, which were to be tendered in evidence against him, were not made voluntarily, but “under duress”.

An operative of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, while being led in evidence by prosecuting counsel, O.A. Atolagbe, told the court that the statements made by Briggs, were made voluntarily, and that he was not forced to make them.

Bawa, who is currently the Head of the EFCC’s Port Harcourt Zonal Office, told the court that he has been with the anti-graft agency for 14 years, and that in 2015 he was deployed to the Extractive Industry Fraud Section of the EFCC.

“The Section specialises in investigating subsidy fraud related matters, and I was responsible for the investigation of the former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, among other matters,” he said.

He further told the court that he was responsible for obtaining the statements of Briggs, on July 23, 2015.

Atolagbe, thereafter, applied to tender the statements in question, which were identified by Bawa.

They were accepted by the court as Exhibits TWT1 and TWT2.

In his evidence, Bawa noted that in investigating a strategic alliance agreement entered into by Atlantic Energy Brass Ltd, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Ltd and the NPDC, it was necessary to invite both the current director of NPDC and the former managing director for an interview session, in order to establish the roles of NPDC and the other companies.

He said: “Briggs was invited through NNPC, the parent organization of the NPDC as one of the former Managing Directors of NPDC to come and answer to what he knows about the ongoing case involving the two companies.

“He was informed of the reason of hisinvitation, and under interrogation, he told us all he knew about the strategic alliance agreement between NPDC and the two companies in question.

“His statement was obtained under caution which he stated that he understood and also signed the word of caution.

“The statement in question indicates that a column was filled by the 4th defendant followed by an underwriting, which is the cautionary words.

“The cautionary words were read over to him and he agreed that he understood the cautionary words.

“It was the duty of the 4th defendant to fill every column, and he did this in his own handwriting.”

Atolagbe asked Bawa if he had met Briggsbefore that day, but the witness responded in the negative.

According to him, “Briggs was told he has all the privileges to call for his lawyer before he starts anything and that he can also cross out whatever he might have mistakenly written”.

He said: “All he needed to do was to cross out the part that he felt he didn’t want to form part of the statement and it won’t form part of it.

“He was not forced to write anything,neither was he harassed, nor promised anything to volunteer his statement.”

Earlier in the proceeding, the prosecution had applied to strike out the name of the sixth defendant who had died in the course of the trial. The request was granted by Justice Dimgba.

The case has been adjourned to February 28 and March 1, 2019.

Tony Orilade