Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court in Lagos, has sentenced 10 persons to a cumulative jail term of 120 years for dealing illegally in petroleum product.
The 10 convicts are James Abatan, Wasiu Abdul Owonikoko, Patrick Ameh, Johnson Ademola, Felix Otto, Chigozie Oguike, Olu Salisu, Jomo Gadagbe, Kunle Oba Saheed and Rasheed Adio.
They were arraigned before the court in 2016 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), alongside a vessel, MT Peace, on a three-count charge bordering on the alleged offence.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was to read to them. Delivering judgement in the matter yesterday, Idris found all the defendants guilty of dealing in 200 metric tons of petroleum product without appropriate licence.
The court held, “From the evidence adduced by the prosecution, it was established that the accused persons indeed conspired among themselves to deal in petroleum product illegally. “Section 4 (1) of the Petroleum Act provides that no one shall deal in petroleum products without lawful and appropriate licence.”
“This offence is a strict liability offence for which no ‘mens rea’ is required,” the judge said.
Idris further noted that the defendants failed to adduce any evidence capable of puncturing the evidences of the prosecution while defending themselves. In sentencing the accused, the judge held: “The offence for which they were charged are strict liability offence.
“This crime is rampant and is almost crippling the economic survival of this nation. We would not standby and allow people destroy the nation’s economy.
“The second to 11th defendants are hereby sentenced to five years imprisonment each on count 1. They are also sentenced to five years imprisonment each on count 2 while they are sentenced to two years imprisonment each on count 3. The sentences are to run concurrently. The petroleum product and the vessel are to be forfeited to the Federal Government.”
In a charge marked FHC/ L/287C/2015, the defendants were accused of conspiring among themselves to deal in 200 metric tons of petroleum product without appropriate licence and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 3 (6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and Section 4 of the Petroleum Act Cap P10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. It is punishable under Section (1) (17) of the same Act.(dp)