Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike is at a State High Court in Port Harcourt for a second consecutive day to personally observe the prosecution of a foreign company, Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, it parent organization, Saipem SPA, and its management over alleged fraud against the state government.
The company is accused of failing to execute the contract for the construction of a power plant, near the Afam Power Station in Oyigbo Local Government Area of the state after receiving full payment of $130million and an additional N70 billion in variation between 2011 and 2014.
The Rivers State Government said the failure of the company to execute the project led to the abandonment of a gas turbine generator unit in Holland since 2012 which the state is paying so much on demurrage.
The case was instituted by the Wike administration in November last year before Justice Okogbule Gbasam of the Rivers State High Court 25.
The defendants in the matter are: Saipem SPA; Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited; Walter Peviana; Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe; Giandomenico Zingali; Vitto Testaguzza and Davide Anelli.
On January 11, 2022, the Presiding Judge, Justice Okogbulo Gbasam remanded the third defendant, Walter Peviani a foreign national who is the manager of Saipem Contracting Firm, and the fourth defendant, Kelechi Chinakwe, a Nigerian.
The judge also issued a warrant of arrest against the fifth and the seventh defendants, both of foreign national, for failing to appear in court after a reasonable adjournment to allow for constituted service of notice which he said was duly carried out.
Those remanded were, however, granted bail less than a week after they were remanded.
When the case came up for hearing yesterday, the court was confronted with an application for a preliminary objection by the counsel to the first, second, third, and sixth defendants, Odein Ajumogobia (SAN), challenging the jurisdiction of the court and accusing it of abuse of processes.
The prosecution lawyer, Godwin Obla also raised an argument that the company, Saipem Contracting Firm be represented by another person other than its Manager, because the Manager is equally standing trial for his personal culpability.
The court then ruled that the Parent company and its Nigeria Subsidiary will be tried in absentia.
The fifth and seventh defendants whose warrant of arrest was issued earlier are also to be tried in absentia.
Today, the court is expected to hear the arguments on the preliminary objection raised by the defense counsel, as well as, begin hearing on the substantive suit brought by the Rivers State seeking the conviction of the defendants for the criminal offence of fraud.
Governor Wike is in court with the National Vice Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party in the South-South, Dan Obih; Rivers State Chairman of the PDP, Ambassador Desmond Akawor; former Senator Olaka Wogu and state Lawmaker, Smart Adoki.
The case started at 12:15 pm on Thursday, February 3, 2022.