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Nigeria: Appeal Court affirms five years' imprisonment for five Filipinos, four Bangladeshi over oil theft
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By Benson Akomo
July 17, 2017 10:36:37am GMT      |      Views: 269
Symbol of law

WorldStage newsonline-- The judgment of a Federal High Court, Lagos which sentenced five Filipinos and four Bangladeshi to five years' imprisonment for stealing crude oil from Nigeria has been has affirmed by the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division.

On December 15, 2015 the lower court convicted the foreigners of stealing 3,423.097 metric tonnes of crude oil. Justice Ibrahim Buba, however, gave each of them an option of N20 million fines.

The three-man Appeal panel, comprising Justices Hussein Mukhtar (presiding), M. L. Shuaib and Frederick Oho, dismissed the twin appeals for lack of merit.

Justice Oho, who delivered the judgment, resolved all the issues in favour of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

He said: "All the issues are resolved against the appellants. The appeal is manifestly unmeritorious and is hereby dismissed for lacking in merit."

He said it was the likes of the convicts, who were arrested by the Navy on March 27, 2015, that gave Nigeria a bad name.

The convicts are Axel Jabone, Zahirul Islam, Juanito Infantado, Suarin Alave, Gatila Gadayan, Islam Shahinul, Islam Rafiqul, Shaikh Nomany and Rolando Comendador.

They were tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on four counts of illegal dealing in petroleum products.

EFCC’s lawyer Rotimi Oyedepo said the foreigners violated Section 1(19) (6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, an offence punishable under Section 17 of the same Act.

The prosecution said the convicts, caught while trying to export the stolen product on a vessel, MT Asteris, also flouted Section 4 of the Petroleum Act, Cap P10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

Justice Buba found them guilty on all the counts and sentenced them to five years imprisonment. According to the judge, the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt.

“The case of the prosecution is as clear as the daylight,” the judge held, adding that EFCC’s case was not controverted.

Justice Buba said the convicts’ inability to prove that they had lawful permit to deal in crude oil further strengthened the prosecution’s case.

He agreed with a prosecution witness who testified that the stolen product was illegally sourced in Nigeria as “the Department of Petroleum Resources confirmed to the EFCC that MT Asteris was not lincensed to deal with crude oil in Nigeria.”

Justice Buba said: “It is the people like the convicts that have made Nigeria a laughing stock in the eyes of the world. The court must send a strong signal that Nigeria is a nation; not a nation of booty.

“It is not right for either Nigerians or foreign nationals to deny this country its God-given natural resources through illegal use. Accordingly this court hereby sentences each convict to five years term of imprisonment on count one with effect from March 27, 2015 with an option of N5m fine.”

The judge sentenced them to five years each on counts two, three and four or a fine of N5million for each count.

“All the sentences are to run concurrently but not the option of fine. In addition, the vessel, MT Asteris, and the cargo on board are forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

“For purposes of clarity, each convict is to serve five years term of imprisonment with effect from 27 of March, 2015 or in a fine of N20million for all the four counts.” 

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