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EFCC arraigns vessel, 26 others over alleged illicit oil deal

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned a vessel, MV Neso11, 25 men and a woman before the Federal High Court, Lagos, for allegedly dealing in petroleum products illicitly.

The defendants 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 and Kingsley Terry.

Others are Augustine Abarowei Udom, Victor Jerome, Victor Uchendu, Firstman Job, Nelson Sokorobo Solomon, Emomotimi F. Watchman, Iwuoha Okechukwu Victor, Ogerugbe Patrick (aka Odafe), Emmanuel Eze, Victor Uchendu and Paul Obi, while the only woman among them is Inyang Ruyie Grace. 

The defendants were arraigned before Justice Abdulla Muhammed Liman on a two-count charge. 

The EFCC counsel, Kamil Bashir, told the court that the 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 also urged the court to remand them in prison custody, till the determination of the charge against them.

But counsel to the defendants, Adetunji Adegboyega informed the court of a motion seeking to admit the defendants to bail, adding that the defendants have been in detention for over one year.

The lawyer said that the interest of justice would be better served if the defendants were admitted on bail on the most liberal terms. 

Other defendants’ counsel which includes; C. J. Okoro, Kennedy Osunwa, Nelson Otaji, Dauphin Precious, Hussain Afolabi also told the court that their clients have been in custody of the Nigerian government for over a year.

In short ruling, Justice Liman, having conceded to the defendants’ counsel request, admitted each of the defendants to bail in the sum of N2 million with one surety each.

The trial judge also granted the vessel an insurance bond of N50 million. Liman also ordered that the surety must be a landed property owner within the court’s jurisdiction and the court’s registrar must do the verification of the bail terms.

The judge while adjourning the matter till December 9, 11 and 13 for trial, warned the defendants not to miss the trial dates.

The judge also ordered that the defendants be remanded in prison custody except for Iwuoha Okechukwu Victor, who is to be remanded in the EFCC custody, because of the state of his health, till the perfection of his bail terms.

EFCC had told the court that the offences committed by 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.

 


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