The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), Lagos Zonal Office, yesterday secured the conviction of 15 oil thieves and two vessels before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.
Justice Aikawa found them guilty on all three counts and sentenced them to one year in prison each on each count, to take effect from the day of their arrest.
Furthermore, Justice Aikawa ordered the forfeiture of the vessels to the federal government, with imposition of a fine of N6000 on each convict aboard MT Zeebrugge and N9000 on each convict aboard MV Ekpere Amaka.
The convicts are MT Zeebrugge (vessel), A. J. Kapilarathana, Yapa, Ramanayaka Appuhamilage Maithripala, Labunu Hewage Udayanga Silva, Shashika Yomal Palipana, Amarasinge Arachchige Dasman Chaml, Kariyawasan Wijewardbana and Joseph Felsianus Fernando.
Others are MV Ekpere Amaka (vessel), Eliaja Agoso, Assayomo Julius, Godwin Ajimosun, Jerome Nwaobi, Ukpe Wisdom, Bayonle-Jude Olawunmi, Vincent Antai and John Zola.
They were first arraigned on March 4, 2020 on three counts of illegal oil dealing in a petroleum product, but pleaded “not guilty” to the charge.
However, at yesterday’s sitting, the defence counsel, Paul Ejiga, intimated the court that the defendants intended to change their pleas.
The charge was read to them and they all pleaded “guilty” to the charge.
Subsequently, counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, called two witnesses to give evidence and placed some documents before the court.
An operative with the EFCC, Moses Awolusi, led in evidence by Oyedepo, told the court that on December 23, 2019, the Commission received a letter from the Nigerian Navy ship, NNS Beecroft, notifying it of the arrest of seven oil thieves and a vessel, MT Zeebrugge.
Awolusi said, “They were arrested on December 12, 2019 with 838.5 metric tons of crude oil on board the vessel. On January 3, 2020, we went on board the vessel with officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources to take samples of the products on the vessel in the presence of the convicts.”