Barristers & Solicitors
Court Dismisses Preliminary Objection by Saipem, Others in Alleged $130m Fraud

Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt

Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has dismissed preliminary objection filed by Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and others, on the jurisdiction of the court to entertain an alleged $130million fraud case against it by Rivers State government.

The state government had sued Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, Mr. Walter Peviana and four other defendants over an alleged conspiracy to cheat and with intent to defraud it the sum of $130 million being advanced payment for the construction of the OCGT power plant in Port Harcourt.

At the hearing of the matter yesterday, counsel for Saipem SPA (first defendant), Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited (second defendant), Mr. Walter Peviana (third defendant) and Vitto Testaguzza (6th defendant), Odein Ajumogobia, presented a preliminary objection application, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.

Ajumogobia stated that the purpose of the application was to stop a process he said was, “abusive, intimidating and did not follow the rules of law.”

According to Ajumogobia, the prosecution failed to include the statements of the defendants in the processes, hence, “rob the court the right to continue hearing on the matter.”
The defendants counsel noted that as a criminal matter there was no evidence of police investigation on the charges against his clients.

Ajumogobia said the prosecution should provide evidence to show that his clients were linked to the alleged crime.
He prayed the court to rule in his clients’ favour, adding that his application should be granted on non-compliance to due process of law.

Arguing on the submission by the defendants, counsel for the Rivers State Government (prosecution), Godwin Obla, stated that haven obtained bail for the defendants and the mere presence of the defendants in the suit has contaminated the preliminary objection application.
The state objected to the preliminary objection by the defendants’ counsel and urged the court to dismiss the application.

Ruling on the application by the defendants’ counsel, the trial judge, Justice Okogbule Gbasam, noted that they were facing trial on 16 counts charge filed by the State on November 19, 2021.
Noting the preliminary objection application by the counsel, the Judge stated that the prosecution also filed a counter affidavit opposing the defendants application.

According to the ruling by Justice Gbasam, the court jurisdiction was upheld by the information filed on November 19.

After a reasoned decision of the court, the judge dismissed the application by the defendants’ counsel and asked that trials proceed.

Immediately after the ruling on the preliminary objection, the state through its counsel, Godwin Obla, opened the case and tendered some documents in support of the matter.

Despite the objection by counsel to the defendants, the objections were overruled by the court and the documents admitted.
The state governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike was present in the court for the matter which lasted for about four hours.

Culled From This Day