A Lagos Federal High Court has convicted II seafarers and their vessel, MV Peace for conspiracy and unlawful dealing in 200 metric tons of petroleum product.
Justice Mohammed Idris after pronouncing the vessel and its crew guilty of the three counts charge brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) sentenced each of the vessel’s crew to 12 years imprisonment.
He ordered that the jail terms are to run concurrently.
He also ordered that the vessel, MV Peace and the stolen petroleum product be forfeited to the Federal government of Nigeria.
The convicts are: Captain James Abatan, Wasiu Abdul Owonikoko, Patrick Ameh, Johnson Ademola, Felix Otto, Chigozie Oguike, Olu Salisu, Jomo Gadagbe, Kunle Oba Saheed and Rasheed Adio.
Sentencing the convicts, Justice Idris said: “I have listened to the plea of allucutor, there is no doubt that they (convicts) are first time offenders. It should be noted that this crime is rampant and it almost crippled the economic survival of the country.
Sample analysed by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), confirmed that the product conformed to Automated Gas Oil (AGO), and that the accused were unable to produce genuine license from the DPR authorising them to deal in the product found on board the vessel.
His allucutor, lawyer to the convicts, Dada Awosika, described the convicts as ‘victims of circumstances’, and pleaded with the court, to give them suspended sentence, saying that they only acted on the instruction of the vessel’s owner.
“The convicts are just victims of circumstances, having taking order from the owner of the vessel. They only acted on the instruction of the vessel owner. They are mechanics, stewards, generator repairers. None of them gave evidence of having interest in the product.
“We concede to the maximum punishment prescribed by the law in respect of the vessel. But in respect of the defendants, I urged the court to tamper justice with mercy. They do not have any previous record of conviction. They are artisans with lower rank. I pleaded with the court to give them suspended sentence.
“I urged the court to give them another chance”.
Responding, the prosecutor, Oyedepo, urged the court not to be persuaded with the convicts’ lawyer plea, saying that granting such request will encourage others to involve in such crime.
The EFCC had told the court that the vessel was owned by a company called D Dove Oil and Maritime Services Limited with its registered address situated at Plot 2, Lateef Jakande Road, Agindingbi, Ikeja, Lagos, said that upon further enquiry the company and its directors have since surreptitiously relocated to an unknown destination.
?EFCC had arraigned the crew members on board a vessel, MV Peace over alleged massive involvement in oil bunkering to the tune of 200 metric tons of petroleum product.
Others arraigned along with the captain are Wasiu Abdul Owonikoko, Patrick Ameh, Johson Ademola, Felix Otto, Chigozie Oguike, Olu Salisu, Jomo Gadagbe, Kunle Oba Saheed and Rasheed Adio.
The vessel and the convicts were first arraigned before the court on July 27, 2017, on the three counts charge of conspiracy and unlawful dealing in 200 tonnes of petroleum product and storing same.
The offences according to the prosecution led by Rotimi Oyedepo are contrary to and punishable under Section 3 (1) (6) (17); (1) (1) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, and Section 4 of the Petroleum Act, Cap P10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
During the trial of the matter, the prosecution called three witnesses and tendered several exhibits which were admitted by the court.