BENIN CITY – A Case Study carried out by the Africa Network for Environment & Economic Justice, ANEEJ, which flagged Ontario Oil and Gas Limited, one of the companies currently being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission  (EFCC) as one of the suspects in the on-going trial of oil subsidy corruption cases,   has recommended that government should ensure the quick and speedy prosecution of all fuel subsidy culprits.
The recommendation is among other issues raised at a press conference convened by ANEEJ today to enlighten the public on the facts around Ontario Oil and Gas being currently prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in case no  ID/115C/2012 which has come up for hearing five times without clear headway.
The study revealed the Prosecutors frustrations as thus: “From the EFCC’s point of view, the investigation and prosecution of fuel subsidy corruption cases have not been too easy for the commission given the kind of people involved in the cases. In a single case,  you sometimes have up to five Senior Advocates of Nigeria as defense counsel, while the EFCC does not have the resources to engage such services.
“The EFCC has also observed that the defense lawyers have so far been employing several delay tactics by way of frivolous motions and sometimes non appearance of suspects in court during trial, so that the cases have dragged on for such a long time.
Some of the suspects after being granted bail fail to appear in court afterward and some even travel abroad. For instance, Mr. Wagbatsoma has not written any statement or appeared before the agency even though he was listed as one of those to be arraigned by the EFCC.” the case study read in part.
The study noted  that ‘even though the EFCC and the Special Fraud Unit has retrieved more than N5 billion taken from oil subsidy since 2012, and while over 40 suspects are now being prosecuted in court for the offences including several oil marketers and their companies, till date not one single individual or company has been convicted by the prosecuting agencies. Prosecutions have been hampered due to a number of issues including the presentation of inadequate evidence, procedural errors’.
Among other things, the study also recommended that “the EFCC should carry out diligent and discreet investigations before carrying out arrests so as to avoid the exploitation of loopholes created by shoddy investigations by counsels willing to exploit litigation fatigue to slow the process and procedures of litigation.”
Critical among the recommendations from the Case study is the suggestion by ANEEJ that the fight against economic and financial crimes should be mainstreamed into electioneering debate by getting aspirants (especially the presidential and National Assembly candidates) to make commitments to support the fight against against corruption in Nigeria, particularly with the quick prosecution of fuel subsidy cases as major reference points.
The study also wants the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, and civil society organizations to engage in public interest litigation on behalf of Nigerians to ensure that those who illegally enriched themselves with public funds do not escape from justice.
To this end, the study wants the Federal Government to create a platform where judges, EFCC prosecutors and the management team of ACAs and the Ministry of Justice can come together to work out how these cases can move faster.