After almost five years of trial that witnessed many twists and turns, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, finally secured the conviction and sentencing of John Warimeme Abebe to seven years imprisonment for forgery before Justice Mojisola Dada of the Special Offences Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos on Friday, February 17, 2023.
Abebe was arraigned on July 26, 2018 by the Lagos Zonal Command of the EFCC on a four-count charge bordering on forgery, fabricating evidence, using fabricated evidence and attempting to pervert the course of justice.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Dr. John Warimeme Abebe, on or about the 22nd day of June, 2010 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, knowingly forged BP Exploration Nigeria Limited’s letter dated 30th November, 1995 to Inducon (Nigeria) Limited by inserting in page 2 of the said letter the following words: “Also note that the ‘Buy-Out Option’ only applies to the pre-production stage of the NPIA. The $4m buy-out is thus irrelevant from production of oil in any of our fields” and purportedly to have been issued by BP Exploration Nigeria Limited and committed an offence contrary to Section 467 of the Criminal Code Cap C17, Law of Lagos State of Nigeria 2003.”
Another count reads: “That you, Dr. John Warimeme Abebe, on or about the 22nd day of June, 2010 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, knowingly used a fabricated evidence in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/224/2010 between Dr. John Abebe, Inducon Nigeria Limited and Statoil Nigeria Limited, before the Federal High Court, which evidence was admitted and marked exhibit BB in the said suit and committed an offence contrary to Section 120 (2) of the Criminal Code Cap C17, Law of Lagos State of Nigeria 2003.”
He pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.
In the course of the trial, the prosecution called five witnesses and tendered several documentary pieces of evidence to prove the case against him.
However, rather than open its defence after the prosecution had closed its case, the defense counsel, E.D. Onyeke, filed a no-case submission.
The trial Judge dismissed the no-case submission as lacking in merit and also ordered the defendant to open his defence.
In his defence, four witnesses were called.
The defendant, who took to the dock as the fourth witness, also testified in his defence denying the allegations against him.
However, in the judgment that lasted about four hours, Justice Dada held that, with the evidence before the court, the prosecution effectively proved counts one to three against the defendant.
The Judge, therefore, declared him guilty as charged on counts one to three.
Justice Dada, however, discharged and acquitted the defendant of count four, which involved conspiracy.
In his allocutus, Onyeke made a passionate plea with the court to temper justice with mercy and to consider the health challenges of the defendant whom he said had to undergo a heart surgery abroad.
Justice Dada sentenced him to seven years at any Correctional Centre of his choice based on the allocutus.
The Judge also gave him an option of fine of N50 million to be paid within 30 days.
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