Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Lagos, has convicted an oil thief, Abednego Ogede in absentia, for unlawfully being in possession of 145,000 metric tonnes of Automated Gasoline Oil (AGO) popularly called diesel.
The judge also ordered that a vessel, MV Shirley, used in carrying out the unlawful and illegal act, be forfeited to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and that a company, Sagwe International Limited, owned by the runaway convict, pay the sum of N100 million to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Justice Aikawa gave the orders while delivering judgment in a criminal charge filed against the vessel, the company and the convict, Ogede, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
EFCC had arraigned the vessel, MV Shirley, the company, Sagwe International Limited and the convict, Ogede, before the court sometime in 2017, on a four count-charge of conspiracy and unlawful and illegal dealing in 450, 000 metric tonnes of petroleum product.
The EFCC through its prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that the trio had committed the offences on April 19, 2017, in Lagos.
Oyedepo had told the court that the offence committed by the convict contravened Sections 19(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and punishable under Section 17 of the same Act.
He had also told the court that the offences contravened Section 4 of the Petroleum Act, Cap P10, laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the charges, and they were granted bail in the sum of N10 million with two sureties in like sum.
During the pendency of the charge, the prosecution had called two witnesses, an operative of the agency and an official of Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), who gave their evidence on how the convict was arrested, as well as tendered documentary evidence, which were admitted by the court.
Also, the fugitive convict, Ogede, was the only one that gave evidence in defence of the charges levelled against him.
Delivering judgment on the charge, Justice Aikawa held that: “The prosecution has discharged the burden of proof the charge against the defendants through the testimonies of its two witnesses.
“It is obvious that they defendants did not license to deal in petroleum product.
“It’s my view that the prosecution proved its case in all charges beyond all doubt. I therefore, find the first, second and third defendants guilty of count one, count two, count three and count four. This is my judgment.”
Following the judge’s guilty pronouncement on all the defendants, the prosecutor, Oyedepo, urged the court to order the forfeiture of the vessel and its content to the Federal Government of Nigeria, as empowered by the laws of the federation
He also urged the court to impose fine of the company, Sagwe International Limited; this he said will serve as a deterrent to other corporate bodies in such act not at upstream or downstream sectors, while also asking the court to make an order directing all security agencies in the country to work together to endure the production of the third convict, Abednego Ogede, before the court for the purpose of sentencing him.
Lawyer to the convict, Anabarani Josepyh did not oppose the prosecutor’s demand.
Consequently, Justice Aikawa ordered the forfeiture of the vessel, MV Shirley and its content to the Federal government of Nigeria. And ordered that the second convict, the company, Sagwe International Limited pay N100 million forthwith, to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The judge also ordered all security agencies in Nigeria, to work together and arrest the third convict, Abednego Ogede anywhere he might be found and bring him before the court for sentence accordingly.
Prior to the court judgment on the charge, Justice Aikawa, had ordered the Abednego’s surety, Abdulraham Usman, a director in one of the Lagos State ministries, to pay the bail sum of N10 million to the coffer of the federal government of Nigeria within the stipulated period.
Usman, was arrested following the disappearance of the third convict, Abednego Ogede, before the conclusion of the charge.
Oyedepo had told the court that the surety was arrested when it became obvious that the third convict had jumped bail.