Not less than 15 men comprising of indigenes and foreigners bagged three-year jail terms for oil theft.
The jail terms were secured by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), Lagos Zonal Office.
The agency secured the conviction of 15 oil thieves and two Vessels before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.
The Justice found them guilty on all three counts, and sentenced them to one year in prison on each count, which will take effect from the day of their arrest.
The spokesman, EFCC, Mr. Tony Orilade in a statement, noted the Judge ordered the forfeiture of the vessels to the Federal Government and imposed a fine of #600,000 on each convict aboard MT Zeebrugge and the sum of #900,000 on each convict aboard MV Ekpere Amaka.
According to the statement; “the convicts are; MT Zeebrugge (vessel), Kapilarathana A.J, Yapa, Ramanayaka Appuhamilage Maithripala, Labunu Hewage Udayanga Silva, Shashika Yomal Palipana, Amarasinge Arachchige Dasman Chaml, Kariyawasan Wijewardbana and Joseph Felsianus Fernando.
“Others convicted for the crime are; MV Ekpere Amaka (vessel), Eliaja Agoso, Assayomo Julius, Godwin Ajimosun, Jerome Nwaobi, Ukpe Wisdom, Bayonle-Jude Olawunmi, Vincent Antai and John Zola”.
The convicts were first arraigned on 3 counts of illegal oil dealing in petroleum product on March 4, 2020 and they pleaded “not guilty” to the charge.
However, during Monday sitting, the defence counsel, Mr. Paul Ejiga told the court that they had the intention of changing their pleas and the charge was read to them and they all pleaded “guilty” accordingly.
Furthermore, the counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo called 2 witnesses to give evidence and placed some documents before the court.
Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, an operative with the EFCC, Mr. Moses Awolusi told the court that on the 23rd of December 2019, the agency got a letter of notification from the Nigerian Navy, NNS Beecroft intimating them of the arrest of 7 oil thieves and a vessel, MT Zeebrugge.
“They were arrested on December 12, 2019 with 838.5 metric tons of crude oil on board the vessel.
“On the 3rd of January, 2020 we went on board the vessel with officials of Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR to take samples of the products on the vessel in the presence of the convicts and was forwarded for laboratory analysis.
“On the 9th of January, 2020, their statements were recorded under caution, ”he said.
Awolusi also told the court that the commission wrote a letter to the Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to ascertain if the vessel had license to deal in petroleum products and a response was received.
The statement stressed that letters were also sent to Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), to confirm if they had a permit to sail on Nigerian Waters and a response was received as well.
It was discovered that in the cause of investigations, it showed the convicts did not have a license to deal in petroleum products and that they loaded from a wooden boat around Forcados Terminal without appropriate license.
Another witness, Seun Ogunduyile, an operative with the EFCC, who was also led in evidence by Oyedepo, told the court that the commission received a letter dated December 30, 2019 from NNS Beecroft on the arrest of 8 oil thieves and a vessel, MV Ekpere Amaka.
In her evidence, she told the court that during the investigation, her team alongside DPR officials went to where the vessel were located and found 85 Metric Tons of petroleum product.
She explained that further investigations revealed that the convicts did not have the license to deal in petroleum products.
Ogunduyile also told the court that letters were written to the DPR and NIMASA and responses were received.
Oyedepo, sought to tender all evidence before the court and they were admitted as exhibits.
One of the counts read: “That you, MV Ekpere Amaka, Eliaja Agoso, Assayomo Julius, Godwin Ajimosun, Jerome Nwaobi, Ukpe Wisdom, Bayonle-Jude Olawunmi, Vincent Antai and John Zola, on the 25th of December, 2019, in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to commit an offence to wit: dealing in 85 metric tons of petroleum products without appropriate licence; and you, thereby, committed an offence contrary to Section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under Section 1(17) of the same Act.”
Editing by Biodun Soyele
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