Justice Jude Dagat of the Federal High Court, Lagos, yesterday discharged and acquitted three men accused of pipeline vandalization and oil theft for lack of diligent prosecution.
The three men are 30-year-old Adesa Jimoh, Adewale Ojo and Abdullahi Ganiyu, who are both 35 years old.
The three men were first arraigned before the court on November 28, 2015 on charges bordering on conspiracy to tamper with petroleum pipelines and stealing.
The police, from the Kam Salem House, Obalende, Ikoyi, Lagos, said the men were arrested on November 25, 2015 at Okeayo, a village between Warewa and Akute, where they were alleged to have jointly engaged in pipeline vandalism and siphoning of 1000 litres of premium motor spirit (petrol) from vandalized pipeline.
The men had pleaded not guilty to the charges and were admitted to bail but were unable to meet the bail terms and had since been in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Services (formerly Nigerian Prison Services.)
During their trial, the prosecution called two witnesses, who were police Inspectors.
In their testimonies before the court, the witnesses narrated how the three men were arrested after they got information about a vandalized pipeline. They did not, however, tender during trial any jerry can containing the alleged stolen fuel, just as they did not tender any sample of the test conducted on the product.
The three men, during their defence, denied knowledge of the allegations. They also told the court that they were at different locations when policemen picked them up.
They also denied making confessional statements.
The prosecutor, Mr Kingsley Ngere, told the court that the prosecution had successfully proven its case against the defendants and urged the court to convict and sentence them as prescribed by the relevant Act.
But the defendants’ lawyer, Mr Abdulaziz Jimoh, urged the court to discharge his clients of the allegations, saying the prosecution had failed to link his clients to the charge.
The evidence given by the prosecution witnesses, Jimoh said, did not establish the ingredients of the charge against his clients.
Freeing the three men, Justice Dagat held that the prosecution failed to prove the ingredients of the allegations against them, adding that there were contradictions in the statements of the witnesses.
The judge also held that the police did not produce the said petrol or sample of the product during trial.