The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) ,arraigned twenty nine persons, Including six Benin Republic citizens, on one count charge before Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari of Federal High Court, Ikoyi in an alleged case of conspiracy and illegal dealings in Petroleum Products.
A statement by the EFCC Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, said the Nigerian Navy, Apapa, Lagos, handed over the suspects to the EFCC.
They were arrested on September 7, 2017 by the Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft patrol team.
They include six Benin Republic nationals namely; Houffo Ojidenu, Hounssa BegaKola, Paul Atungbe, Hunssa Achilit, Honfo Emil and Honfo Djoelit.
The Navy had intercepted a wooden boat laden with 140 empty drums with six (6) crew members on board along Lagos Anchorage Area alongside MT Matrix 1, which was already arrested by the Nigerian Navy, while they were on patrol.
The Commanding Officer of the Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft subsequently transferred the wooden boat and six crew members to the EFCC for further investigation and possible prosecution.
When the charge was read to the defendants, they all pleaded not guilty.
The charge reads, ‘’that you Houffo Ojidenu, Hounssa BegaKola, Paul Atuungbe, Hunssa Achilit, Honfo Emil and Honfo Djoelit on or about the 7th day of September, 2017 at Lagos Anchorage Apapa, Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court attempted to commit an offence to wit: dealing in petroleum products in Nigeria without lawful authority or appropriate license and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 1(19) (a) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under Section 1(17) (b) of the same Act.’’
In view of the plea, the prosecution counsel, Zainab Abubakar asked the court for a trial date and remand the defendants in prison custody.
Counsel to the defendants, Abdulmalik Ibrahim while moving for the defendants’ bail, prayed the court for a short date for trial to begin.
Justice Shagari, however adjourned the matter to November 15, 2017 for commencement of trial and remanded the defendants in Ikoyi prison.
Meanwhile, 21 suspects, including a Nigerian lady, were also arraigned before Justice Shagari on one count charge of conspiracy and illegal dealing in Petroleum Products. The suspects were arrested by the Nigerian Navy on September 27, 2017 during a routine patrol around the Lagos Safe Anchorage on the High Sea with three wooden boats laden with 540 empty drums suspected to be used for illegal activities.
Count one of the charge reads “that you Blessing David, Attau Abel, Sunday Odepo, Francis Agba, Peter Honfo, Batoromi Digi, Nuel Megbe, Jerome Ilewagbemi, Kankor Bidemi,Amuse Awatu, Isaac Torwuloten, Martins Aviwe, Kojo Cheji, Edumo Rofor, Koko Rofor, Jimoh Megba, Jockten Tomatu, Ado Leon, James Oke, Dominic Nwagu and Ado Rafino on or about the 27th day of September, 2017 at Lagos Anchorage Apapa Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this Honurable Court attempted to commit an offence to wit: dealing in petroleum products in Nigeria without lawful authority or appropriate license and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 1(19) (a) of the Miscellaneous Offenses Act, Cap M17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under section 1(17) (b) of the same Act.
In view of the pleas of the accused persons, the prosecution counsel, Zainab Ettu asked for a trial date and prayed the Court to remand the accused persons in custody while the counsel to the accused persons, Abdulmalik Ibrahim filed an application for the bail of the accused persons which was rejected by the Court.
Justice Shagari, after hearing from both counsel, ordered the accused persons to be remanded in prison custody while the matter was adjourned to November 15, 2017 for the hearing of the bail application.
Justice Shagari also ordered Friday Ogboji and Oluwashina Ogugbure to be remanded in prison custody till 16th November 2017 for hearing of their bail applications. They were also arrested in a seperate patrol by the Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft, Apapa on September 27, 2017 on board a fiber boat laden with petroleum products.
The accused persons were arraigned in the same Court on one count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy and illegal oil bunkering but pleaded not guilty when the charge was read to them.
Tony Ailemen, Abuja