N1.6bn Scam: Court Grants Omokore Leave to Travel, Rules on Application Challenging Jurisdiction July 5
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja has granted the embattled Chairman of Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited, Jide Omokore, who is standing trial for a N1.6 billion oil scam, the permission to travel abroad between July 11, 2017 and September 10, 2017.
The trial judge has also fixed July 5, 2017 to rule on an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter. The application was brought by Abiye Membere, a former Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
Omokore and his companies are standing trial along with Membere, Victor Briggs, former managing director of Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC; and David Mbanefo, manager, Planning and Commercial of the NNPC. They were re-arraigned on November 21, 2016 on a nine-count amended charge,of criminal diversion of about $1.6 billion alleged to be proceeds of petroleum products belonging to the federal government.
At the resumed sitting, June 13, 2017, prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), who called the attention of the court to the applications, noted that they were only served on him “late yesterday”.
“I was served some applications, one filed yesterday, June 12 challenging court’s jurisdiction to entertain this matter, which was served on me very late yesterday, around 6pm, and I just got the motion this morning,” he said, noting that he would need about two days to file his written addresses.
He intimated the court that he would not be objecting to the second application, which was also dated June 12 and brought by Omokore’s counsel, R.A. Rabana, SAN, “asking for permission or leave of court permitting him to travel”.
While noting that the court had in April also granted Omokore leave to travel, he hinted that “I’ve spoken with his counsel, and told him that it is better he travels during the vacation period of the court”.
Justice Dimgba, then ruled that the order seeking for “leave of court” to allow Omokore travel, “is granted as prayed”, stressing that he could however, only travel between July 11, 2017 (last day of work for the court), and September 10, 2017 (when courts resume).
Jacobs, who also told the court that “I want to file additional proofs of evidence, and intend to call more witnesses”, then urged the court to fix a date for hearing of arguments with regards to the application challenging the court’s jurisdiction, brought by Membere’s counsel, Osaro Eghobamien, SAN.
Justice Dimgba, thereafter adjourned to June 22, 2017 “for hearing of the application challenging jurisdiction of the court, and adoption of written addresses”, and fixed July 5, 2017 “for ruling and continuation of trial depending on which way it goes”.