Alleged $1.6bn Oil Fraud: Omokore Denies Buying Houses, Cars for Diezani, NNPC Bigwigs
By Onome Naomi
The money laundering and procurement fraud trial of Olajide Omokore, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd, Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept Limited, Victor Briggs ( former managing director, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, and Abiye Membere resumed on Tuesday March 1, 2022 before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja with the defendants opening their defence.
Led in evidence by lead defence counsel, R.A. Lawal-Rabana, the 1st defence witness, Olajide Omokore, who is also the1st defendant, told the court that the allegations that he purchased houses for a former minister of petroleum resources, Diezani-Alison-Madueke, and cars for officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and politicians were untrue.
Asked specifically by Lawal-Raban, SAN, if the allegation that himself and the 2nd and 3rd defendants gave out a penthouse described as House 22 and 21 in Admiralty, Ikoyi, and Belevista Estate in Ikoyi, was true, the witness replied thus: “My answer is simple. There was nothing like that. I did not do anything like that. There is no document to that effect. I did not give anything to Diezani as alleged.
“There is nothing between me and the minister that was more than official. I did not conspire with anyone. I had a facility of about $100m Dollars in Florida. Even here, the generators I am using in my office, two of them, First Bank gave me as one of their best customers. So, how can anyone say that I defrauded the government? For what!”
He also claimed that he did not provide cars for any officials of the NNPC.
“Buying cars is part of my philanthropic gesture. I buy cars for people, churches, NGO, and my friends.
“I never gave any car to Mbanefo. I gave a car to the King of Obosi who is my friend, and Mbanefo happens to be from Obosi. I am the Enyimba of Obosi and up till today I go to the palace for meetings. My company is a very big company and I gave them instruction that I wanted to gift a car to my friend, the king of Obosi for the chieftaincy title he conferred on me. My company’s management then gave the car to kabiyesi. It was in the papers. The local television in Anambra carried it. Mbanefo is from Obosi, and we met at the palace. The company gave the car to Mbanefo to give to the Igwe”, he said.
Asked whether it was true that he also provided a car gift to the 5th defendant, Abiye Membere, the witness answered in the affirmative, but added that the gift had nothing to do with the Strategic Alliance Agreement, SAA, between his company and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, but to mark a milestone in his life, his 50th birth anniversary.
“Engr Membere has been my friend since a very long time, even when he was in Exxon Mobil. Our relationship dates back to ages. I went to his village three weeks ago for the burial of his mum. About 10 years ago he buried someone and I was there. We are family friends. He buys gifts and perfumes for me.
“I gave the car to him during his birthday. I did that for his birthday which was a milestone, his 50th birthday. Membere did not even know we were delivering a car to him. It was a surprise.
“It has nothing to do with the SAA. I never met with him on the SAA. I met with the DMD. He had nothing to do with the SAA. It was after we had signed the SAA that his 50th birthday came”.
Under cross examination by counsel to the 2nd and 3rd defendants ( Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd, Atlantic Energy Drilling Cconcept Limited) A. Adegbonmire SAN, the DW1 explained that himself and Atlantic Energy gave out “more than 100 cars to different people” before the SAA was signed. Asked whether he knows a man called Kola Aluko as one of the directing minds of Atlantic Energy Drilling Concept, he answered in the affirmative.
Asked again, whether Aluko was able to give instructions to the company without asking or clearing from him, the witness responded: “yes, he was the managing director”.
Olaniran Obele, counsel to the 4th defendant asked the witness whether he gave a car gift to the 4th defendant, Briggs. “No, I did not”, Omokore replied. He also said it was not true that he gave car gift to Mrs. Nneka Briggs, the wife of the 4th defendant?
The matter was adjourned to March 2, 2022 for continuation of hearing.
When hearing resumed today, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, cross-examined the DW1.
In response to a question on whether he was one of the directors and shareholders of Atlantic Energy Drilling Company, Omokore replied; ‘yes’, but said he could not remember specifically the percentage of his shares in the company.
Justice Dimgba adjourned the matter till tomorrow, March 3, 2022 for continuation of cross-examination.
The defendants are facing prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on amended nine-count charge, bordering on alleged money laundering and procurement fraud involving Omokore’s companies in respect of a Strategic Alliance Agreement on OML 26, 30, 34 & 42.to the tune of $1.6billion.