The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday arraigned a vessel, MV Neso11, 25 men and a woman before the Federal High Court, Lagos, for unlawful dealing in petroleum products.
The men are Francis Onyeoma, Adebayo M. Charles, Melvin A. Jack, Omogoye Wasiu Bolaji, Umoren Harrison Daniel, Oloyede Y. Ademola, Archibong Anietie James, Richard Essien David, Oke Asaiki, Mike Simeon, Godswill Emmanuel Umoh, Edu Fidelis, Miebaka Iyaka, Kingsley Terry, Augustine Abarowei Udom, Victor Jerome, Victor Uchendu, Firstman Job, Nelson Sokorobo Solomon and Emomotimi F. Watchman.
Others are Iwuoha Okechukwu Victor, Ogerugbe Patrick (aka Odafe), Emmanuel Eze, Victor Uchendu and Paul Obi. The only woman among them is Inyang Ruyie Grace.
All the defendants were arraigned before Justice Abdulla Muhammed Liman on a two-count charge.
The EFCC counsel, M. K. Bashir, told the court that all defendants who were arrested within the Nigerian maritime domain and the Gulf of Guinea, allegedly conspired among themselves and unlawfully dealt in petroleum products.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was read to them.
Following their not guilty plea, the prosecutor asked the court for a trial date and urged the court to remand them in prison custody till 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 and 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 one year.
The counsel informed the court that they have filed their clients’ bail application and served same on the prosecution.
The counsel, therefore, urged the court to admit their clients to bail in the most liberal terms.
Though the prosecutor told the court that he intend responding to the application, but the judge graciously conceded to the defendants’ counsel request, and admitted each of them to bail in the sum of N2 million with one surety each.
The judge also ordered 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.
Justice Liman also granted the vessel an insurance bond of N50 million.
The judge while adjourning the matter till December 9, 11 and 13, for trial, warned the defendants not to miss the trial dates.
He also ordered that all the defendants be remanded in prison except Iwuoha Okechukwu Victor, who is to be remanded in the EFCC custody, because of state of his health, till the perfection of the bail terms.