Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
The Department of State Services has accused businessman and Chief Executive Officer of Capital Oil and Gas Limited, Ifeanyi Ubah, of diverting about 80 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit (commonly called petrol), kept in his custody by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
The agency stated that Ubah shunned NNPC’s repeated demands for the product estimated to be worth N11bn in order to cause artificial scarcity of the product.
It stated that Ubah’s action could plunge the country into widespread scarcity of PMS and economic chaos.
According to the agency, the act amounted to economic sabotage punishable by death.
These were stated in a counter-affidavit and written submission filed by the DSS in opposition to an application by Ubah, asking a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Jabi, Abuja, to set aside an order for his detention for 14 days.
Justice Yusuf Halilu had granted the order to the DSS on May 10, 2017, allowing the agency to keep the suspect in custody for 14 days pending the completion of an ongoing criminal investigation against him.
The DSS’s lawyer, Mr G. Agbadua, told Justice Halilu on Tuesday that Ubah was plotting to plunge the nation into economic and social crisis by creating artificial scarcity of petroleum product.
The DSS’ counter-affidavit deposed to by one of the agency’s operatives, Mr Safwan Bello, stated, “The respondent (Ubah) was arrested on reasonable suspicion of his involvement in the commission of a crime. He converted PMS, belonging to the NNPC, kept in the custody of his tank farm, to his personal use.
“The respondent refused to return the PMS to the NNPC after repeated demands. The PMS is worth over N11bn. The action of the respondent is affecting the distribution of petroleum products to the populace.
“The action of the respondent is sabotage of NNPC’s activities as it relates to the distribution of petroleum products. If not for the urgent steps taken by the Federal Government, the action of the respondent would have plunged the country into widespread scarcity with its attendant effect on the economy.
“Petroleum is the lifeblood of the Nigerian economy. NNPC is a major stakeholder in the petroleum industry in Nigeria. An attack on the Nigerian economy is an economic threat to national security dimension.
“The Nigerian populace will suffer untold hardship if NNPC is unable to discharge its statutory responsibilities, including distribution of petroleum products as well as generating revenue for the country.
“The action of the respondent, if not checked, is capable of undermining the NNPC in the discharge of its duties. The investigation into the activities of the respondent is yet to be completed. A premature release of the respondent will adversely impact on the investigation, which is nearing completion.”
Agbadua stated in a written address, which he adopted during the Tuesday’s hearing, that the alleged diversion of the petroleum product by Ubah was not only stealing but an attempt to cripple the nation’s economy.
He stated that the act was punishable by death under the Petroleum Production and Distribution (Anti-Sabotage) Act, 2004.
He stated, “The action of the respondent (Ubah) to sabotage the distribution of petroleum products is a capital offence under the Petroleum Production and Distribution (Anti-Sabotage) Act, 2004.
“The act of the respondent was capable of plunging the country into chaos as a result of the scarcity of product had the NNPC not taken a proactive step to forestall such situation. This clearly brings the action of the respondent under the provision of the Petroleum Production and Distribution (Anti-Sabotage) Act, 2004.
“The punishment of sabotage under this Act attracts death penalty. It is clear that the respondent was arrested for the conversion of the property of the NNPC. It is not just ordinary stealing, it is stealing of the lifeblood of the nation.
“Oil is the major source of revenue of the Federal Government. Stealing of the revenue is a crime against the economic interest of Nigeria and therefore, falls within the purview of the economic threat of national security dimension.”
Agbadua stated that the gravity of the alleged offence informed why a diligent investigation was required to ensure prompt prosecution of the respondent.
He added that this was why the DSS sought the permission of the court to detain Ubah pending the conclusion of the investigation.
The DSS had arrested Ubah upon complaint by the NNPC that the businessman diverted over 80 million litres kept in the tank farm of his company, Capital Oil and Gas Limited, based in Lagos.
The DSS said Ubah’s continued detention was based on the order granted by Justice Halilu.
Agbadua contended that as against the argument by Ubah that the diversion was purely a civil case, his action was criminal and was allegedly intended to threaten the nation’s economy.
He also justified the DSS’ involvement in the investigation of the case, arguing that the alleged offence fell within such issues that the DSS could investigate.
He said the act was not only punishable under the Petroleum Production and Distribution (Anti-Sabotage) Act, 2004, but also under Section 383 of the Criminal Code.
Ubah had applied to the court to set aside the detention order, arguing among others, that the court was misled by the DSS, which allegedly suppressed material facts from the court.
Arguing Ubah’s application earlier, his lawyer, Mrs Ifeoma Esom, prayed the court to either set aside its order of May 10 or order the businessman’s release on the grounds that his continued detention was unjustifiable.
Esom argued that the issue on which Ubah was being held was purely civil and contractual.
She stated that provision had been made for the penalty in the case of default under the circumstances of the case.
Esom stated that Capital Oil and Gas had been one of the largest “throughput provider” for the NNPC for a long time.
She stated, “The failure to re-deliver is expressly stated by the contract to be a mere breach of contract, remediable by the payment of a penalty to the owner. There can, therefore, be no issue of crime in a conversion of products under a throughput contract (regardless of the ordinary connotations of those words).”
Justice Halilu adjourned until May 25 for the ruling. (Punchng.com)
Fidelis Soriwei, Abuja
There were strong indications on Thursday that the Federal Character Commission would sue the Department of State Services unless the agency submitted its nominal roll.
The FCC has also insisted that the DSS should respond to the query it issued to the security agency over its lopsided recruitment.
The Chairman of the commission, Dr. Abba Shettima, in an interview with The PUNCH on Thursday, confirmed that the FCC had written to the DSS to demand its nominal roll.
This, he said, was to verify allegations of lopsidedness in the last recruitment by the agency, which was alleged to have contravened the federal character protocol.
The commission had given the DSS a three-month ultimatum to clear the air on the controversy over the recruitment.
Shettima stated, “We have written to the DSS to get their nominal roll and they have not complied.
“Unless, we look at their nominal roll and ascertain, state-by-state, to see that certain states, that are grossly underrepresented or not represented or overrepresented, we will not come out clearly to say what they have done is lopsided.
“So, in the event we discover that it is not a correct measure, we will now take the appropriate sanctions.”
There are reports that while Katsina State, the state of origin of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Director-General, DSS, Lawal Daura, was allocated 51 slots in the latest recruitment, the whole of the six states in the South-South geopolitical zone got 42 slots.
When asked what the commission would do if the DSS failed to respond to the FCC after three months, Shettima said the commission had the power to commence legal action against any agency involved in deliberate violations of the Federal Character Act.
He added that the commission had the option to refer such defaulting agencies to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
Shettima said, “They (DSS) cannot deliberately ignore us. If they deliberately ignore us, they are violating the law. You know that it is a function of the law. It is the law that establishes it and then the constitution is very clear.
“If you deliberately refuse to comply with the provisions of the Federal Character Act, of the constitution, the commission has every right to take that organisation to court. One of the options is litigation. The other option is you complain to the Attorney General of the Federation that this is what is happening.”
He added that the DG of the DSS, Daura, sent his Special Assistant to him on Tuesday to notify him that he was out of town, adding that they would meet to resolve the issue.
Shettima stressed that it was compulsory for all recruiting Ministries, Departments and Agencies to adhere to the federal character protocol in compliance with the provisions of Section 14 of the Constitution.
He alleged that the recruitment carried out by the DSS in 2012, 2013, 2015 and part of 2017 did not follow the principle of federal character.
The FCC boss added, “If government agencies, whether the DSS or the military, are recruiting, they must comply with the provisions of the Federal Character. Section 14, (3) and (4) is very clear. It has no exception either in the executive, judiciary or the legislature. If you are recruiting, you must comply with the Federal Character protocol. That is basic.
“Over the years, to be honest with you, in 2012, 2013, 2015, and part of this year, recruitments are being done by the DSS without recourse to Federal Character. On many occasions, we have called their attention to this.”
Shettima explained that the intention of the commission was corrective rather punitive and to ensure equality and fairness in the citizens’ participation in organisations under the government.
When asked how the government would address the imbalance caused by lopsided recruitment by organisations, he ruled out the option to sack those who benefitted from such illegal exercise.
He argued that sacking Nigerians, who had been employed because of lopsided recruitment, would create more problems than solutions.
The FCC chairman stated that efforts could only be made to create a balance in future recruitments in compliance with the Federal Character principle.
Shettima also said that for the first time, the FCC had demanded and received nominal rolls of the MDAs.
He explained that the FCC was involved, for the first time, in the ongoing recruitment into the Federal Civil Service, which he described as transparent.
On the issue of the illegal postings in the National Health Insurance Scheme, Shettima said the commission was still involved in talks with the NHIS and had given it a template of character balancing index of states based on its nominal roll.
Shettima stated, “They came in that they are recruiting; this year, we gave them a template of character balancing index of the states of the federation based on its existing nominal roll. And we ask them (officials) if they are recruiting, this is the way they have to recruit.
“But the problem we are experiencing is that most of the MDAs don’t like to advertise because of the cost involved. They will come to us and say they are recruiting; that they have a pool of applicants; that they want to tap from that pool.
“So many reasons have been advanced but they don’t recruit before coming to us, it is an offence and no chief executive officer would want to do that.” (Punchng.com)
From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Irked by the consistent absence of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), in court for trial, a judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf, yesterday warned the Department of State Service (DSS) not to take the trial lightly.
Justice Baba-Yusuf, who was angry over the conduct of the DSS, adjourned the case to July 10, 11 and 12, 2017, at the instance of the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN).
He asked the prosecuting counsel to contact all agencies of government to ensure that Dasuki was produced in court on the next trial dates.
Dasuki is standing trial on charges of alleged diversion of funds meant for procurement of arms.
The judge said: “I only want to say that the proceedings of the court should not be taken lightly.
“Extraneous considerations must not be allowed to interfere with course of justice.”
Earlier, Jacobs said the DSS’ legal director attributed the failure of the agency to produce the ex-NSA in court on Tuesday to an “oversight.” He further explained that after he discovered that the ex-NSA had not been produced in court at the scheduled time on Tuesday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission contacted the DSS, which blamed it on the unwillingness of Dasuki to attend court because he was indisposed.
Jacobs said: “I contacted the Director of Legal of DSS to explain the absence of the first defendant in court yesterday (Tuesday). He told me it was an oversight and that the first defendant would be produced this morning (Wednesday).
“I made series of efforts when I discovered he was not yet in court this morning, but I was unable to contact the DSS. I immediately contacted my client, the EFCC, for them to approach the DSS. My client later told me that the first defendant said he was indisposed and would not come to court.
“On account of that, I will be asking for an adjournment.”
Counsel to Dasuki, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), said he had no objection to the prosecutor’s application for an adjournment, even as he described the situation as “an inter-departmental issue.”
He further stated that the situation had further highlighted the state of powerlessness of the court that a defendant granted bail by the court was unable to enjoy the bail.
Daudu said: “From all that the prosecuting counsel has said, it is an inter-departmental issue. I think this highlights the powerlessness of the court; the court granted him bail, which he has not been allowed to enjoy.”
Another defence lawyer in the case, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), described the excuse of an oversight given by the agency as the reason for the failure to produce the ex-NSA in court earlier on Tuesday as “irritating”.
While not opposing the request for adjournment, Olujinmi asked the judge to direct the DSS to produce Dasuki in court on the next trial date.
Others standing trial alongside the ex- NSA are a former Director of Finance and Administration in the office of NSA, Shuaibu Salisu; former General Manager, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Aminu Baba-Kusa.
Two companies belonging to Baba-Kusa, Acacia Holdings Limited and Reliance Referral Hospital Limited, are also part of the defendants.
The case involving the alleged diversion of N32 billion was scheduled to come up on Tuesday, but while the other defendants in the case were in court, the DSS did not produce Dasuki. (The Sun)
Ovie Okpare, Warri
A Federal High Court sitting in Asaba, Delta State, has asked the Department of State Services to tender an unreserved apology to the son of the South-South Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Mr Tareri Avwomakpa, over his illegal arrest by DSS operatives in February.
Justice T.B. Adegoke gave the ruling on Tuesday in a suit numbered FHC/ASB/CS/14/2017 filed by Tareri, a Warri-based legal practitioner against the Director-General, Department of State Services and the Delta State Director, DSS, following his arrest and detention over a message calling for support for the General Overseer, Omega Fire Ministries, Apostle Johnson Suleman.
Operatives of the DSS had in February arrested and detained Tareri over an alleged message sent through a social media platform, Whatsapp, wherein he called on Christians in the country to support and accompany Suleman to honour the invitation by the DSS at its head office in Abuja.
Justice Adegoke while delivering his ruling on the case, held that Archbishop God-do-well Avwomakpa son’s arrest was unlawful and unconstitutional even as he awarded N250,000 damages against the DSS director-general and the Delta state director of the organisation.
According to a copy of the judgment sighted on Thursday in Asaba, the court ordered the DSS authorities to write a formal letter of apology to the claimant for a breach of his constitutional human rights.
Tareri also confirmed the ruling when contacted on Thursday and dedicated the judgment to Nigerians who had been killed, maimed and were currently suffering oppression for being Christians across the country. (Punchng.com)
Olusola Fabiyi, Abuja
The Group Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas Limited, Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah, has said that he reports at the headquarters of the Department of State Services in Abuja daily and that he is not being detained.
Ubah, who spoke in a telephone interview with our correspondent in Abuja on Sunday, said that the DSS was mediating in a financial dispute he had with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
When he spoke with our correspondent, he said he was on his way to the DSS office, where he said there would be a reconciliation meeting between him and the officials of the NNPC.
He said he was grateful to the DSS for intervening in the matter, adding that he would make a public statement to thank the security outfit on Monday.
“I go there every day. I’m on my way there now. We have a reconciliation meeting with them today. I will make a statement tomorrow (today) to thank the DSS for being able to resolve the issue,” he said.
Ubah is being interrogated over the claim by the NNPC that it had N11bn worth of Premium Motor Spirit stored in facilities of his company.
The NNPC had written both the DSS and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, asking them to help it to recover the said amount.
The NNPC said it stored the PMS with the amount in the facilities of Capital Oil and Gas Limited.
It alleged that the product was stored in the facility under a special arrangement, which it claimed was breached by the businessman.
The corporation claimed that Ubah sold the product without its permission.
The NNPC had stated in a statement by its Group General Manager, Public Affairs Division, Mr. Ndu Ughamadu, in Abuja some days ago, that the politician’s company failed to remit the money from the agreement. (Punchng.com)
Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja
The Department of State Services has submitted a report to the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), containing evidence implicating the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
The report, which was signed by one Folasade Bello on behalf of the Director-General of the DSS, was in response to a letter sent to the DSS by the AGF dated December 19, 2016 with reference number, HAGF/DSS/2016/Vol 1/7.
The DSS also attached 12 documents as evidence against Magu who was rejected by the Senate last week based on the damning security report.
According to the DSS, Magu while serving on the presidential arms procurement probe panel befriended a fellow member of the panel, Air Commodore Mohammed Umar (retd.).
Umar was later arrested and charged by the DSS sometimes last year for alleged money laundering and illegal possession of firearms.
According to the DSS, Umar said in his confessional statement that his company furnished Magu’s official residence in upscale Maitama.
It reads in part, “This is a copy of the confessional statement of the confessional statement of Air Commodore Mohammed Umar (retd.), a suspect hitherto detained and currently being prosecuted by the service.
“The statement confirms his ownership of Valcour SA Nigeria Limited, a company awarded the contract of securing and furnishing an official residence for Ibrahim Magu by the FCTA. Investigations revealed that this was facilitated after Magu was earlier shown the residence by one Uche Aleka, a close business associate of Umar who was introduced to Magu by the former.”
The security service said when Umar’s house was searched by operatives, several top secret documents, which emanated from the EFCC were found at his residence, evidence that Magu was providing him with sensitive information.
It added, “This is a copy of progress report with reference number SH/COS/24/A/7277 dated 25th May, 2016 on NNPC/NLG Brass Investments Accounts in Nigeria commercial banks from Chief of Staff to the President, Mr. Abba Kyari, to the acting Chairman of the EFCC chairman. The letter is an official/classified document of the EFCC, which was duly received by the commission as indicated by the stamp on the document. However, it was recovered at Umar’s residence.”
The DSS alleged that Magu allegedly used his position to settle personal scores with his perceived opponents.
It concludes, “It has exposed Magu as a fraudulent officer and betrays the high confidence reposed in him by the President.”
All attempts to speak with the EFCC spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, proved abortive as his telephone indicated that it was switched off.
In his response to the AGF last year, however, the EFCC boss denied all the allegations levelled against him by the DSS.
Magu his relationship with Umar was one of “professional acquaintance devoid of issues of conflict of interest” since their paths crossed when they became members of the arms procurement probe panel.
He said, “The claim that EFCC documents, including EFCC letters addressed to the Vice President and being investigation reports on the activities of Emmanuel Kachikwu and his brother Dumebi Kachikwu, were found in his home during a search by the DSS came to me as a surprise.
“If that is correct, he should be made to disclose how he came by such documents. I never discussed my official duties with him let alone give him documents pertaining to investigations being conducted by the commission.”
Magu further denied allegations that Umar rented the Maitama apartment for him. (Punchng.com)