Justice Chuka Austine Obiozor of Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos on Thursday, July 16, 2020, convicted and sentenced the trio of Ometoruwa David, Morford Meteku and John Inneh to one year in prison for conspiracy and illegally dealing in petroleum products.
The oil thieves were prosecuted by the Lagos Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on three-count amended charges to which they pleaded guilty upon their re-arraignment on Thursday.
The Nigerian Navy had arrested the convicts on board a vessel, MV Lady Sharon on January 9, 2020, which was found to be illegally laden with about 120 metric tonnes of substance suspected to be Automotive Gas Oil (AGO/diesel) and subsequently handed them over to the EFCC for further investigation and prosecution.
One of the charges read: “That you, Ometoruwa David, Morford Meteku, and John Inneh on the 9th day of January, 2020 in Lagos within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, without appropriate license stored 120 Metric Tonnes of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) in MV Lady Sharon and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 4 of the Petroleum Act Cap P10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
Upon their guilty pleas, prosecuting counsel, Idris Mohammed, gave a review of the facts of the case, part of which was a proof that though the vessel was registered with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA and the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, its license and permit to deal in petroleum products expired in 2018.
With the defendants’ counsel, Peter Atabo, raising no objection to the facts of the case and the exhibits, marshaled in evidence against his clients, Justice Obiozor pronounced them guilty as charged, noting that “upon a careful appraisal of all the evidence and facts before the court, the prosecution has been able to prove beyond reasonable doubt the charges against them.”
Following a plea for leniency by Atabo, the judge, sentenced them to one year in prison in the Ikoyi Correctional Centre, on each of the three counts, which is to run concurrently, beginning from the day of their arrest.
He added that the convicts are to sign an undertaking with the EFCC, upon their release “to be of good behaviour and never to be involved in any criminal act within and outside the shores of Nigeria.”