Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State has convicted and sentenced the trio of Edward Alade, Emmanuel Amqawei and Kennedy Segbenu to one year imprisonment for illegally dealing in petroleum products.
They were arraigned on July 3, 2020 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Lagos Zonal Office, on three-count charges bordering on illegal dealing in petroleum products.
One of the counts read: “MT MABOG, Edward Francis Alade, Amqawei Emmanuel, Kennedy Segbenu, Rapheal Odusanya (At Large), Ajuluwatan Abner (At Large), Okoro George Atang (At Large), Kalu Umeh Ikeng (At Large), and Okorodudu Lucky (At Large) on the 22nd January, 2020, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, conspired amongst yourselves to commit an offence to wit: dealing in 330 metric tonnes of petroleum products without appropriate license and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, CAP M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and punishable under Section 1(17) of the same Act.”
Another count read: “MT MABOG, Edward Francis Alade, Amqawei Emmanuel, Kennedy Segbenu, Raphael Odusanya (At Large), Ajuluwatan Abner (At Large), Okoro George Atang (At Large), Kalu Umeh Ikenga (At Large)and Okorodudu Lucky (At Large), on the 22nd January, 2020, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, without appropriate license attempted to export 330 metric tonnes of petroleum products and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 1(17) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act CAP M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
The defendants pleaded “guilty” to the charges, with Amqawei, captain of the ship, taking the guilty plea for the MT MABOG vessel complicit in the crime.
In view of their pleas, EFCC Counsel, Kamil Bashir, called the prosecution witness, Remedy Yange, an operative of the Commission, to review the facts of the case.
Led in evidence by Bashir, the witness told the court that the Nigerian Navy, NNS Beecroft Apapa, had petitioned the EFCC alleging that the defendants were illegally dealing in petroleum products.
He said the defendants were arrested on January 22, 2020 and handed over to the Commission for investigation and possible prosecution.
“Preliminary investigation was carried out and we wrote to NIMASA, DPR,” Yange said, adding that the reply from the DPR indicated that “the vessel doesn’t have license to deal in petroleum products or have naval clearance.”
The petition, defendants’ statements, hand-over note of the Navy to the EFCC and the report of the DPR were tendered in evidence and admitted by the court as Exhibits 1-4.
Based on the evidence before the court, the trial judge found them guilty of all the counts.
Peter Atabo, counsel for the defendants, pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy, noting that his clients were first-time offenders.
He also prayed the court to fine the vessel, MT MABOG, instead of ordering its forfeiture.
The prosecution counsel, however, vehemently opposed the prayers of the defence counsel, saying,
“It is standard practice that vessels involved in such crime should be forfeited to the Federal Government along with its contents.”
Delivering his judgment, Justice Aikawa sentenced the defendants to one year imprisonment each on all counts. Their sentences will run concurrently from the date of their arrest.
The Judge further ordered the forfeiture of the MT MABOG vessel to the Federal Government along with the cargo onboard and any other property found in the vessel.