Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Alleged forgery of oil agreement: Obasanjo’s in-law alleges witch-hunt

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John Abebe, a businessman and the brother-in-law of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, on Tuesday, told an Ikeja Special Offences Court that his trial for forgery was witch-hunting.

Mr Abebe, brother of late First Lady, Stella Obasanjo, prayed that justice should be done in the case.

Recall that Mr Abebe had claimed that Statoil (a Norwegian oil and gas company incorporated in Nigeria) made allegations of forgery against him after he sued the company before a Federal High Court.

Statoil Nig. Ltd. had on June 22, 2010, accused Mr Abebe of forgery.

The company alleged that the defendant forged parts of a Net Profit Interest Agreement (NPIA) dated Nov. 30, 1995, which was drafted by British Petroleum (BP).

Led in evidence by defence counsel, Mr Edoka Onyeke, Abebe told the court that when he filed the suit at Federal High Court suit against Statoil, he was forewarned of a backlash from the company.

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He said: “My lord, when I started this action in 2009, I mentioned to BP that I was going to take this action and BP told me that Statoil would do anything to destroy me.

“I was told that if you sue a multinational in any court of law, it will do anything to frame you, destroy you and it will play dirty.

“All I was asking for my lord is justice. If I could bring two companies to our country, Nigeria, to work with me and agree to the least compensation of 1.5 per cent, why will a Goliath like them want to destroy a David?

“What I want the court to do for me is to see the injustice being done. The Supreme Court (in the judgment in the  suit against Statoil) has pronounced that I went to the wrong court 12 years ago, and some of the judges said the suit is statute barred.

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“If I’m found guilty of what I did not do, it will be very very unfair. I plead the court to give me justice.”

While being cross-examined by Mr A.O Mohammed, counsel to prosecution – Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) – Abebe testified that he was warned by Mr Jerry Matthews, a former head of BP Nigeria, of a  possible backlash.

“Matthews was actually warning me as a friend.

“My lord, even after BP left the alliance with Statoil, BP continued to do business with me, John Abebe.

“He (Jerry Matthews) said that all the agreements Statoil had with me, BP would enforce it.

“This information was given orally; unfortunately, he can’t come to court to give evidence.  Jerry Matthews died last year,” Mr Abebe said.

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When asked by the EFCC counsel why he did not invite the former employees of BP who were present during the drafting of the NPIA which Statoil claims is forged, Abebe said he was not obliged to prove the forgery allegations.

“Though I’m not a lawyer, I was told that if you are taken to court for forgery, the onus is on the prosecution to prove the allegation,” he said.

Justice Mojisola Dada adjourned the case until April 23 for continuation of cross-examination.

NAN reports that Abebe, who was arraigned on July 26, 2018, if facing a four-count charge of forgery, fabricating evidence, using fabricated evidence and attempt to pervert the course of justice.


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