Court Orders Arrest Of Haulage Operator For Alleged Diversion Of Dangote Diesel

The Federal High Court in Lagos, presided over by Justice Akintayo Aluko, has issued a bench warrant for the arrest of a haulage operator, Adolphus Peter, who was accused of unlawful diversion of Automotive Gasoline Oil (AGO), popularly called diesel, valued at N882.8 million belonging to Dangote Industries Limited.

Justice Aluko ordered the arrest of Peter after he failed to appear before the court to take his plea over a four-count charge of alleged conspiracy, diversion, bribery and corruption brought against him by the police.

The judge issued the warrant after listening to an ex parte motion to that effect by the Prosecutor, Elliot Ejie, a Chief Superintendent of Police from the Police Special Fraud Unit (PSFU).

The court also ordered that the two trucks with registration numbers EHR 360 UU and LSD 152 XR, used for the alleged offence, be kept in the custody of the PSFU pending the conclusion of the trial.

The police dragged the defendant, his company, Adokhai Global Resources Nigeria Limited and an accountant with Dangote Industries Limited, Falako Emmanuel, before the court for allegedly diverting 1.7 million litres of AGO, valued at N882.8 million.

The defendants were charged before the court in a charge marked FHC/L/631c/2023.

However, while the charge was pending, the accountant with Dangote Industries Limited, Falako, had taken his plea and was admitted to bail by the judge, but Peter and his company have persistently failed to appear before the court to take their plea, despite being served with a copy of the charge and other accompanying documents through their lawyers, as ordered by the court

The defense counsel, Aliens Agbaka admitted that he had been served with the charge but that the counsel with the brief was his neighbour, who also said he was challenging service.

He also told the court that he had never seen, met, or spoken with the defendant about what transpired in court.

But the prosecutor, while citing Section 396(2) of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, argued that any other application could only be heard after the defendant’s plea has been taken

He then moved an ex parte motion for the issuance of a bench warrant against the defendant, urging the court to invoke Section 352(5(1)(a) of ACJA 2015 to compel the defendant’s appearance in court.

However, counsel to the defendant vehemently opposed the granting of the ex parte motion, saying that since he has raised the application challenging service, the application for a bench warrant is premature.

In his ruling, Justice Aluko agreed with the prosecutor that the charge was served on the defendant through his lawyer (Agbaka), who was in court on April 4, 2024, as directed by the court.

After asking the prosecutor to move his motion, the judge held, “I grant the motion as prayed, a bench warrant be issued on the defendant.”

After the ruling, Ejie informed the court that he had another ex parte motion brought under Section 330(a) of ACJA 2015 for the custody of the trucks used in committing the alleged crimes.

The motion was opposed by Agbaka, who informed the court that the motion was an abuse of the court process on the ground, noting that the same order was sought and was granted by Justice Mohammed Kala of the same court.

But the prosecutor told the court that the order granted by Justice Nicholas Oweibo, not Justice Kala, was a ‘preservatory order’, which was obtained for investigation purposes.

He told the court that the new order sought is for the police to take custody of the two trucks until the determination of the charges against the defendants.

Ruling on the lawyer’s submissions, Justice Aluko held that the order sought was different from the one granted by Justice Oweibo; he, therefore, granted the order and adjourned the matter to October 9 for the defendant’s arraignment.

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