Jide Omokore, a billionaire oil magnate and ally of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, has been re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a nine-count charge of criminal diversion of about $1.6 billion reportedly from the proceeds of petroleum products belonging to the Nigerian government.
Omokore was re-arraigned alongside Victor Briggs, Abiye Membere, and David Mbanefo. before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the federal high court, Abuja.
Two of Omokore’s companies, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited, were also part of the accused persons.
They had been initially arraigned before Justice Binta Nyako on July 4, 2016 but the matter was transferred to Justice Dimgba and so had to begin afresh.
All the accused persons pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them again on Monday.
The prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, asked the court to allow the defendants to keep enjoying the bail earlier granted them by Justice Nyako, while a date should be fixed for trial to commence
The application was not opposed by the defence team and Justice Dimgba adjourned the case to December 8 for hearing.
Earlier in August, one of Omokore’s counsels, Rabani Lawal, SAN, rejected the claims that his client was an associate of the former petroleum minister, Allison-Madueke.
Lawal said in an interview granted a national daily and published on August 27: “The general impression created every time, all day, is that Jide Omokore is Diezani’s associate but he’s not!
“Jide Omokore is a businessman that has his own companies, bidded for jobs, entered into contracts with NDPC and NNPC to provide some services under the strategic alliance agreement and which has being ongoing, and that has nothing to do with his relationship with Diezani.
And, therefore, it is very worrisome that any time anything about Diezani comes up the next thing is that they will fly Jide Omokore’s name.
So, the EFCC should draw the distinction; if you are investigating Diezani, investigate her and limit your investigation to what has been traced to her either by her conduct, or by her diversion or by her abuse of office, and that is if it has been established. But this should not be extended to independent and third parties whose only offence is that they had a business transaction with the organisation she headed.