The Lagos Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has secured the conviction and sentencing of five illegal oil thieves to one year imprisonment each before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos.
The convicts, who are all Indian nationals, are: Visal Guleria, Pranjal Singh, Rahul Pathania , Akash Kumar and Sahil Sharma.
They were arrested by officers of the Nigerian Navy Ship NNS Beecroft , Alaka, Lagos on January 31, 2020 aboard the vessel, MV Bount carrying 45.9 MT of Automotive Gas Oil, AGO with no relevant documentation and subsequently handed over to the Commission for further investigation and prosecution.
The defendants were, on June 25, 2020, arraigned separately on a three -count charge of offence bordering on illegal dealing in petroleum products.
One of the counts reads: “That you, M.V. Bount and Akash Kumar, on the 31st day of January 2020, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, conspired among yourselves to commit an offence to wit: dealing in 45 metric tons of petroleum products without appropriate license and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 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.”
Another count reads: “That you, M.V. Bount and Vishal Guleria , on the 31st day of January 2020, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court , without license dealt in 45 metric tons of petroleum products and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 1(17) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation if Nigeria, 2004.”
The defendants initially pleaded “not guilty “ to the charge preferred against them, thereby prompting their trial.
However , at the resumed sitting on December 9, 2020 , the defendants all changed their pleas of “not guilty” to “guilty.” In view of this, the prosecution counsel, U. U. Buhari, reviewed the facts of the matter and urged the court to convict and sentence them accordingly.
Justice Aikawa, after listening to the allocutus of the defence counsel, convicted and sentenced the defendants to one year imprisonment on each count , which will run concurrently from the date of their arrest.