Rivers State federal high court in Port Harcourt, has convicted and sentenced 26 fraudsters for illegal petroleum products dealing.
The convicts were slammed with different terms of imprisonment, including 24 people, one business and one vessel.
They were prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Port Harcourt’s Zonal Office.
The anti-graft Spokesman, Tony Orilade disclosed this in a statement in Abuja.
He said 12 of the convicts who got their jail terms on Friday are: Abubakar Lawal; Mustapha Babagana; Christian Nweke; Ikpaikpai Elvis; Abdullahi Bawa; Hamson Sadiq; John Owoicho; Elewa Roy; Areh Sunday; Nafiu Sani, Emeka Michael and Kingsely Ihuoma.
Orilade added that the rest 14 including 12 individuals, one company and a vessel were convicted and sentenced on Thursday, August 8, and they are: Kabiru Saidu; Saleh Muhammed; Yusuf Bala; Salisu Usman; Hamisu Sha’Ibu; Aliyu Muhammed; Umar Mohammed; Muhammed Aliya; Sunday Emmanuel Udo; Mallam Garba Abubakar, Ifeanyi Duru and Sani Haruna. The company and the vessel are: Solution Mark Nig.Ltd, and M.V. Chi-Ebubeh.
Further, it was learnt that the first set of convicts, 12 of them, were arraigned on Friday, August 9, by the EFCC, Port Harcourt’s Zonal Office, on a one-count separate charge bordering on illegal dealing in petroleum products.
The count charges read: “That you Abubakar Lawal sometimes in April, 2018, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did distribute petroleum product (Automotive Gas Oil) with Daf with registration number AKD 893 XG without a licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 4(1) of the Petroleum Act, Cap P10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004 and punishable under Section 4(6) of the same Act”.
But the defendants pleaded guilty to the count charge when it was read to them.
On this basis, prosecuting counsels Samuel Chime; M. T Iko; E. Abbiyesku; F. O Amama; Celestina Okorie and K. W Chukwuma-Eneh reportedly prayed the court to convict and sentence the defendants accordingly.
Also, Counsels to the defendants, Babatunde Opadola; J. C Okere; O. M Ofodili; A. D Ndaboye, C. O Odoemena, and M. M Suleiman did not oppose the prayers of the prosecution.
In his ruling, Justice A. T. Mohammed convicted and sentenced Lawal, Babagana and Nweke to two years imprisonment with an option of fine of N100,000.00 each while Elvis; Bawa; Sadiq; Owoicho; Roy; Sunday; Sani, Michael and Ihuoma were sentenced to a fine of N100.000 each respectively.
The Judge also ordered that the products conveyed in the various trucks be forfeited to the Federal Government.
Trouble started for the convicts, Orilade affirmed when they were intercepted by men and officers of the Nigerian Army, 6 Division, Port Harcourt, at different locations in Port Harcourt, for illegal dealing in petroleum products without necessary licenses.
The convicts were also arrested alongside trucks with registration numbers: AKD 893 XG; XA 452 NNR; PBT 525 XA; KHE 477 XA; RGG 183 XA; EPE 238 XN; ABN 948 YN; XW 775 FST; WMK 130 XA; XB 252 KMC, BGM 209 XA and APP 348 XM while distributing and storing illegally refined AGO and carrying out anti- bunkering operations.
The second set of convicts, 14 of them, were arraigned on Thursday, August 8, 2019 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Port Harcourt’s Zonal Office, on one-count separate charge bordering on illegal dealing in petroleum product.
The count charge read: “That you Kabiru Saidu, sometimes in 2017 at Abuloma, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did distribute Petroleum Product (AGO) conveyed in a Truck with registration number XL 985 KRD and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 4(1) of the Petroleum Act, Cap P10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004 and punishable under Section 4(6) of the same Act”.
The defendants also pleaded guilty when the charge was read to them.
It was on this premise that prosecuting counsels: A. Osu, C. O Ugwu, Esin-Otu Ebipade, F. C Obinwa and M. T Iko prayed the court to convict and sentence the defendants accordingly.
Counsels to the defendants: M. M. Suleiman, Babatunde Opadola and E. X Eboh did not oppose the prayer of the prosecution.
Justice Mohammed convicted and sentenced the defendants to a fine of N100,000 each, while Solution Mark Nig. Ltd, and M.V. Chi-Ebubeh were sentenced to a fine of N500,000 each for illegal dealing in petroleum products.
The judge also instructed the Federal Government to forfeit the goods conducted by the vehicles and ship.