A couple, Mr Amaechi Ndili and Mrs Njide Chizoba Ndili, have denied stealing $4,666,234.28 from their business partner; Addax Petroleum Development Nigeria Limited.
The duo alongside their company, Lionstone Offshore Services pleaded not guilty to three amended three counts, dated 14th December 2021 filed against them by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Usman Baba Alkali.
Amaechi and Mrs Njide Chizoba Ndili, the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice-President of Lionstone Offshore Services respectively were however granted bail, following their arraignment before Justice Olubunmi Abike-Fadipe, of the Special Offences Court, Ikeja on Wednesday.
The court granted bail to the second defendant, (Mrs Njide Chizoba Ndili) in the sum of N20 million with two sureties in like sum.
The bail condition also includes that one of the sureties must have landed property in Lagos State.
The court also ordered that sureties must have evidence of tax payment.
All documents, including addresses of the defendants and sureties, must be verified by the court’s orderly.
The judge added that all conditions must be met within 14 days, failure of the second defendant to comply, the judge will remand her to a correctional facility in Lagos.
Announcing her appearance on behalf of Lagos State Attorney General, (AG) Ms Tolulope Esan, informed the court that the duplicate case file was forwarded yesterday and that the AG’s office intends to issue legal advice on the matter.
But the judge told her that her principal has no reason to appear in the case.
According to her, “You are aware this matter was filed in 2018 between my sister’s court.”
Ms Esan replied that she was directed to take over the matter.
Addressing the court, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mr Simon Lough, SAN, informed the court that the defendant’s case was taken over by the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF in 2018.
The senior lawyer further noted that legal advice was issued in 2020 and the file was returned to the police for diligent prosecution.
He insisted that the defendants were brought before the court under the Criminal Code Act and not the Criminal Law of Lagos State.
The judge asked the lawyer who announced the appearance for the state, “If the case is under the Criminal Code Act, how can the state AG prosecute it?”
Counsel to defendants, Ebun Shofunde, SAN, countered the police on the premise that the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the matter, according to him, “Lagos State High Court does not have the constitutional power to prosecute a case under the State Act because it is under Federal territory.
“My humble submission is that the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, does not forbid this type of application at this stage, even if it does, it is unconstitutional.”
Ruling on the argument and counterarguments, the judge said, “The court shall therefore take their plea and later entertain objections.”
Lionstone was said to have been engaged by Hercules as its local partner and to received payments on its behalf in respect of contracts it executed for Addax Petroleum Development Nigeria Limited.
The police alleged that the $4,666,234.28 formed parts of the payments the defendants received on behalf of Hercules, but which they failed to remit to Hercules in accordance with their agreement, but instead, allegedly converted the money to their personal use.
The defendants were, in count one, accused of conspiring “to commit felony to wit. Stealing by conversion of the sum of $4,666,234.28 property of Hercules Offshore Nigeria Ltd, contrary to Section 516 of the Criminal Code Law, Cap C38 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
The couple and the firm are, in count two, accused of stealing “by dishonestly converting to your own use the sum of $4,666,234.28 which you received from Addax Petroleum Development Nigeria Ltd on behalf of Hercules Offshore Nigeria Ltd, and therefore committed an offence contrary to Section 387 and punishable under Section 390 of the Criminal Code law, Cap C38 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
They were, in count three, accused of dishonestly converting the $4,666,234.28 they “received from Addax Petroleum Development Nigeria Ltd on behalf of Hercules Offshore Nigeria Ltd on account of the contract you and your company, Lionstone Offshore Limited, entered into with Addax Petroleum Development Nigeria Ltd, which was executed by Hercules Offshore Nigeria Ltd, but you failed to deliver money to Hercules, an offence contrary to Section 388 and punishable under Section 390 of the Criminal Code law, Cap C38 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
Justice Abike-Fadipe fixed the trial for January 30, 31, February 1, 7 and 8, 2023.