The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has arraigned eight suspected oil thieves before a Federal High Court,in Lagos for illegally dealing in 351 metric tonnes of petroleum products.
The defendants, Stephen John Degbe; Bode Shofela; Emmanuel Esalet; Aderibigbe Jeje; Peter Atijere Ekpe; Dayang Nantok Ibrahim; Adewunmi Oguntifa and Samuel Alalbi were arraigned before Justice Sule Hassan, alongside a vessel named MV Laida.
The defendants and the vessel were arraigned on charges bordering on conspiracy to illegally deal in petroleum products, unlawful dealing in the product and attempt to ‘smuggle’ the product out of Nigeria.
The offences, according to the EFCC lawyer, Mr. S. Okongwu, are contrary to sections 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.
Arraigning the defendants, the prosecutor, Mr. Ebuka, informed the court that they were arrested with the stolen petroleum products, concealed in the vessel on December 30, 2019, while attempting to export same product outside the country.
However, the defendants denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to the three counts charge.
Following the defendants’ not guilty plea, the prosecutor urged the court to remand them in the custody of Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS), till the determination of the charges against them.
But the defendants through their various counsels, urged the court not to grant the prosecutor’s request of remanding them till the charges are determined, but to admit them to bail in the most liberal terms.
They told the court that they have filed their bail applications and same have been served on prosecution team, who have responded to the applications.
In determine the bail applications, Justice Hassan, admitted each of the defendants to bail in the sum of N10 million with one surety.
The judge also ordered that the sureties must be a landed property owner within Lagos State, who must file the property’s title documents with the Court’s Deputy Chief Registrar (DCR) and must file affidavit of means of livelihood.
The judge further ordered that the defendants must also deposit their international passports with the Courts DCR, and that the defendants and their sureties must deposit three passport photographs with the court.
Justice Hassan ordered that the defendants be remanded in the NCS’s custody pending the fulfilment of the bail conditions, and adjourned till October 23, for trial.
One of the counts of the charge against the defendants read: “that you, M.V Laida; Stephen John Degbe; Bode Shofela; Emmanuel Esaket; Aderibigbe Jeje; Peter Atijere Ekpe; Dayang Nantok Ibrahim; Adewunmi Oguntifa and Samuel Alabi, on the 30th December 2019, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court conspired amongst yourselves to commit an offence to wit: dealing in 351 Metric Tonnes of petroleum products without appropriate license and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 3(6) and 1(17) and of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, CAP M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under Section 1(17) of the same Act”.