A total of five oil thieves have been convicted and sentenced to different jail terms by three Judges of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The convicts are: Noel Akpan; Digie Global Marine Services; MT Europort, MV Sea Rich and Obinna Onyeneho Kenneth. They were all convicted for illegal dealing in petroleum products.
While Noel Akpan, Digie Global Marine Services and a vessel, MT Europoort were convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment each by Justice S. Pam on July 22, 2021, Justice P. M. Ayuba convicted and sentenced a Vessel, MV Sea Rich to three years imprisonment on July 16, 2021 while Justice E.A. Obile convicted and sentenced Obinna Onyeneho Kenneth to three years imprisonment on June 30, 2021.
The trio of Akpan, Global Marine Services and Europort were originally arraigned by the Port Harcourt Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on June 6, 2017 and pleaded “not guilty” to three- count charges bordering on conspiracy and illegal dealing in petroleum products. They later changed their pleas to “guilty” on July 22, 2021.
Based on their pleas of “guilty”, prosecution counsel, F.O.Amama prayed the court to convict and sentence them accordingly. Defense counsel, C.J. Nmerem did not oppose the prayer of the prosecution.
Justice Pam convicted and sentenced Akpan to two years imprisonment with an option of fine of One Million Naira (N1, 000,000) which is to run concurrently. He convicted Digie Marine Global Services and MT Europort to a fine of One Million Naira(N1,000,000.00) and Three Million Naira (N3,000,000.00) respectively. The fines are to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federal Government.
The Judge also ordered that the product on board MT Europort be sold by the Chief Registrar of the Court and the proceeds paid also into the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federal Government and evidence of payment filed in court.
Akpan’s journey to the Correctional Centre began when he was arrested by a patrol team of the Joint Task Force, JTF (Operation PULO Shield) at Forupa waterways in Bayelsa State on board MT Europort loaded with about 1,500 metric tonnes of suspected illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil (AGO). He was handed over to the EFCC alongside the vessel and his company: Digie Global Marine Services.
In another court, Justice P.M. Ayuba convicted and sentenced MV Sea Rich to three years imprisonment. The vessel was arraigned on one-count charge bordering on illegal dealing in petroleum products
The charge read: “That you MV SEA RICH on or about the first April, 2017 around El-Totuama Boat Yard Waterside in Port Harcourt, Rivers State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court dealt in petroleum products to wit: Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) which was not of quality expected of such product and thereby Committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 1 (18) (a) (ii) of the Miscellaneous offences Act, CAP M17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004”.
The vessel, represented by Sebastine Godwin, pleaded “guilty” to the lone charge preferred against it. In view of the plea of “guilty” by the defendant, prosecuting Counsel F. C. Obinwa, prayed the court to convict and sentence the defendant accordingly. Counsel to the defendant, James Allen prayed the court to temper justice with mercy, stressing that “he is a first- time offender and has no previous criminal records”.
Justice Ayuba convicted and sentenced the vessel to three years in Correctional Service with an option of fine of One Million Naira (N1,000,000.00) payable into the Federal Government’s Account.
Troubles came for MV Sea Rich when it was intercepted by the patrol team of Sector 3, Joint Task Force, Operation Delta Safe, Okirika, Rivers State, on April 1, 2017 loaded with a large quantity of substance suspected to be illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil, AGO. The captain and crew members vanished into thin air, leaving behind the vessel.
In the matter of Obinna Onyeneho Kenneth, Justice E.A Obile convicted and sentenced him to three years imprisonment on one-count charge bordering on illegal dealing in petroleum product.
The one count charge read: “That you Obinna Onyeneho Kenneth on or about the 11th September, 2019 around Borikiri, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, within the jurisdiction of this honorable court did deal in petroleum product, which is not of good quality and being transported in a vehicle with a registration number HAF 841 TY and thereby committed an Offence contrary Section 1 (18) (a) (i) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act M17 of the Revised Edition (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria) Act 2007 and punishable under Section 1 (18) (a) (of the same Act).
In view of his plea, prosecution counsel, K.W. Chukwuma-Eneh prayed the court to convict and sentence the defendant accordingly.
Justice Obile found him guilty as charged and consequently convicted and sentenced him to three years imprisonment with an option of fine of Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N 500,000.00).