By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday, May 17, 2019, secured the conviction and sentencing of 18 illegal oil dealers before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos.
The convicts are: Ayeni John, Emmanuel Tosu, Emopin Monein, Malade Aiyetimiyi, Odroja Ojune, Ikedehinbu Idowu, Abogun Ota, Elamah Augustine, Olarotimi Elikanah and ThankGod Benjami.
Others are: Abbas Friday, Victor Goldsmith, Gbenga Thomas, Ibane Austine, Idowu Surprise, Asemia Thomas, Agbayoh Lawrence, Salihu Malik and Ayetiniyi Ademola.
They were re-arraigned on a three -count charge bordering on conspiracy, dealing in and storing of unlicensed Automotive Gas Oil, AGO.
The suspects were arrested with two fibre boats laden with petroleum products from a hijacked vessel, MT MAMA ELIZABETH, by the Nigerian Navy on August 30, 2018 in Lagos and some parts of Ondo and handed over to the Commission for further investigation and prosecution.
They were alleged to have conspired among themselves to deal in about 21,840 litres of Automotive Gas Oil without appropriate licence.
At the point of arrest, N3.5 million, which was suspected to be proceeds from the sales of the illegally acquired products, was found on one of the convicts.
One of the counts reads: “ That you, Ayeni John, Emmanuel Tosu, Emopin Moneyin, Malade Aiyetimiyi, Odeoja Ojune, Ikedehinbu Idowu, Abogun Ota, Elamah Augustine, Olarotimi Elikanah, ThankGod Benjamin, Abbas Friday, Victor Goldsmith, Gbenga Thomas, Ibane Austine, Idowu Surprise, Asemia Thomas, Agbayoh Lawrence, Saliu Malik, Ayetiniyi Ademola , between August and September, 2018 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, conspired amongst yourselves to commit an offence to wit: dealing in about 21,840 litres of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO)without appropriate licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap.17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under Section 1(17) of the same Act.”
All but the eighth defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against him defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against them.
In view of their pleas, the prosecution counsel, Idris Abdullahi, informed the court that the first, seventh, ninth and nineteenth defendants had entered a plea bargain with the EFCC and sought the leave of the court to review the facts of the case.
The prosecution counsel, Abdullahi, in his submission, informed the court that on August 30, 2018, the Nigerian Navy Beecroft, while on a patrol around the Atlas Cove Island, intercepted two fiber boats that had in its possession 21,840 litres of AGO, the source of the product was hijacked from a vessel named MV Mama Elizabeth.
He also told the court that, at the time of arrest, nine crew members were arrested and 10 others during the cause of investigation.
Abdullahi also stated that the sum of N3.5 million was found on the 18 defendant, while two locally made fabricated guns were recovered from the nineteenth defendant.
He added: “They were all handed over to the EFCC for further investigation.
“EFCC investigations revealed that the defendants conspired amongst themselves, dealt in and stored unlicensed 21, 840 AGO.
“They were confronted with the findings and volunteered statements to the EFCC.
“The Nigerian Navy arresting officers also volunteered statements.”
The prosecution counsel sought to tender the hand-over notes from the Nigerian Navy to the EFCC, the arresting officers’ statements, the statements of the defendants and two letters from the EFCC exhibit keeper showing deposit of N3,500,000 and two fabricated guns.
The documents were admitted in evidence as exhibits 1, 2, 3, (3A),4(4Q)5, respectively.
The prosecution adopted the plea bargain agreement of one year imprisonment on the defendants each from August 25, 2018, being the day of their arrest and detention prior to their arraignment on February 28, 2019.
It was also agreed that the two fibre boats, 21,840 litres of Automotive Gas Oil and the sum of N3.5 million recovered from the eighteenth convict be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria and be deposited by the Commission to the Consolidated Revenue Funds of the Federation.
According to the prosecution, it was further agreed that the two fibre boats and the 2,1840 litres of Automotive Gas Oil be sold by the EFCC in collaboration with the appropriate government agency or private organization, and the proceeds be remitted to Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
It was also agreed that, upon their release from prison custody, the defendants are to enter a bond with the EFCC to be of good behaviour and never to be involved in any form of economic and financial crimes, illegitimate or criminal acts, both within and outside the shores of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In view of their guilty plea, the prosecution counsel, Abdullahi, urged the court to convict the defendants on the three-count charge and also prayed the court to sentence them to the terms agreed in the plea bargain.
Justice Aikawa, while considering the terms of the plea bargain, convicted the defendants on the three counts and sentenced them to one year imprisonment on each count, which are to run concurrently.
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