The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday arraigned 26 persons and a vessel, MV Neso11, before the Federal High Court in Lagos, for unlawful dealing in petroleum products.
The defendants made up of 25 men and one woman were arraigned before Justice Mohammed Liman on a two-count charge of conspiracy and illegal oil bunkering.
The 25 men are: Francis Onyeoma, Adebayo Charles, Melvin Jack, Omogoye Bolaji, Umoren Daniel, Oloyede Ademola, Archibong James, Richard David, Oke Asaiki, Mike Simeon, Godswill Umoh and Edu Fidelis.
Others are: Miebaka Iyaka, Kingsley Terry, Augustine Udom, Victor Jerome, Victor Uchendu, Firstman Job, Nelson Solomon and Emomotimi Watchman.
They also included: Iwuoha Victor, Ogerugbe Patrick (aka Odafe), Emmanuel Eze, Victor Uchendu and Paul Obi, while the only woman among them is Inyang Ruyie Grace.
According to the EFCC counsel, Mohammed Bashir, all the defendants, who were arrested within the Nigerian maritime domain and the gulf of Guinea, conspired among themselves to unlawfully dealt in petroleum products.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was read to them.
Following their plea, the prosecutor, asked the court for a trial date, while also urging the court to remand them in prison custody, pending the determination of the charge against them.
Bashir told the court that the offences committed by all the defendants are contrary to Section 17(a) and (b) of the miscellaneous offences Cap. M17, laws of the Federation of Nigeria, (revised edition) 2004 and punishable under the same Act
However, the defendants’ counsel who includes: A. A. Adetunji, C. J. Okoro, Kennedy Osunwa, Nelson Otaji, Dauphin Precious, Hussain Afolabi who also stood in for Tolulope Ige, told the court that their clients have been in custody of the Nigerian government for over a year.
The lawyers also told the court that they have filed their clients’ bail application and served same on the prosecution.
They, therefore, urged the court to admit their clients to bail in the most liberal terms.
Though, the prosecutor told the court that he planned to responding to the application on a later date, the preside judge, graciously, conceded to the defendants’ counsel request.
He admitted each of the defendants to bail in the sum of N2 million with one surety each.
Justice Liman also granted the vessel an insurance bond of N50 million payable to government.
The judge also directed that the surety must be a landed property owner within the court’s jurisdiction and the verification of the bail terms must be done by the court’s registrar.
The judge while adjourning the matter till December 9, 11 and 13, for trial, warned the defendants not to miss the trial dates.
The court further ordered that all the defendants be remanded in prison custody except Iwuoha Okechukwu Victor, who is to be remanded in the EFCC custody, because of his state of health, till the perfection of the bail terms.