Justices P. M. Ayuba and S. D. Pam, both of Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, have convicted and sentenced five oil thieves to various jail terms, for illegal dealing in petroleum products without requisite licences.
The convicts are Wei Ibolo, Mudashiru Toaheed, Etim Edet, Martins Savior and Tope Alani.
They were all jailed after pleading “guilty” to one- count of separate charges preferred against them by the Port Harcourt Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), upon their arraignment on Thursday, 31st March 2022.
The lone count charge read:
“That you Owei Ibolo on or about the 6th day of December 2021 around the Creek of Akassa River, Bayelsa State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did, without lawful authority and licence, dealt in crude oil to wit: about 700,000 litres conveyed in MT. TIS IV thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1 (17) (a) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, of the Revised Edition (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria) 2007 and punishable under Section 1 (17) (b) of the same Act”
Given their pleas of “guilty”, prosecution counsel: J. N. Dogonyaro and B. C. Kadiri, prayed the court to convict and sentence them as charged.
Counsel to the defendants: M. M. Suleiman and B. C. Okeadaka prayed the court to temper justice with mercy, insisting that, “they are first-time offenders and do not have previous criminal records”.
Justices Ayuba and Pam convicted and sentenced the defendants to various jail terms as follows:
Justice Ayuba convicted and sentenced Taoheed, Savior, Ibolo and Edet to two years imprisonment each, with an option of a fine of Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N200, 000) each, payable into the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federal Government.
Justice Pam also sentenced Alani to two years (2) imprisonment, with an option of a fine of Two Hundred Thousand Naira (N200, 000) payable into the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
He also ordered that the Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) transported in a Toyota Camry car, with Registration Number Lagos NF 301KJA, be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria. The products, he ruled, should be sounded and sold by the Secretary of EFCC or any other person authorised by him and the proceeds paid into the EFCC Recovery Account domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the vehicle released to the owner.
Both judges ordered that the convicts should depose to affidavits of good behaviour before the court.
The convicts’ journey to prison started when they were apprehended by the Anti-Bunkering Teams of both the Nigerian Navy and Army at Akassa River in Bayelsa State and Okirika in Rivers State, for illegally dealing in petroleum products without appropriate licences.
They were arrested with a vessel laden with about 700,000 litres of crude oil loaded in MT. TIS IV around Brass Terminal Jetty in Bayelsa State, without any certification by the Nigerian Navy to operate in Nigeria waters.
They were all handed over to the EFCC for further investigation and prosecution.