Alleged $1.6bn fraud: Jide Omokore’s co-accused denies statements

The trial of Jide Omokore, an associate of former Minister of Petroleum and five others, over alleged oil theft amounting to $1.6 billion, took a different dimension on Wednesday, when the fourth defendant and former managing director, National Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), Victor Briggs denied his earlier statements to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

When the case came up, counsel to the anti-graft agency, Oluwaleke Atolagbe asked the court to strike out the sixth defendant’s name, David Mbanefo, who, he said was now deceased. The court acted accordingly.

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Meanwhile, the denial of Brigg’s earlier statement necessitated a trial within a trial.
An operative of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, a prosecution witness, insisted that the statements the fourth defendant made to the EFCC on July 23, 2015, and that of February 12, 2016, were both voluntary.

Cross-examined by the EFCC’s counsel, Bawa said the statements were not made under duress but out of free will, saying they even threw banters at the end of the questions and answers session.

Although the EFCC witness said, the defendant had no legal representation at the time of interrogation, he, however, said, “he was cautioned, we explained to him, which he said he understood before signing the caution note.

“He wrote the statements which he signed. The statements were recorded in the presence of other investigators,” he said.

He said prior to the investigation, he never met Briggs.

Omokore is being prosecuted alongside Briggs and Abiye Membere, former Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production of NNPC.

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