From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State has sentenced one Olaniyi Oluwasayo Oladele, to seven years in prison with an option of One Hundred Thousand Naira fine, for illegally dealing in petroleum products without appropriate licence.
The offence contravenes Section 1(17) (a) of Miscellaneous Offences Act CAP M17 of the revised edition (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria) 2007 and punishable under the same Act.
The convict was prosecuted alongside Sule Ezra and MV Idoma River by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, Port Harcourt Zonal office, on a three count charge.
The counts read thus: ‘That you, Olaniyi Oluwasayo and Sule Ezra on or about 5th February, 2017 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did conspire amongst yourselves to commit felony to wit: distribute, deal in petroleum product without appropriate license and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 3 (6) of the Miscellaneous offences Act Cap M17 of the Revised Edition (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2007 and punishable under Section 1 (17) of the same Act”.
‘That you Olaniyi Oluwasayo Oladele and MV Idoma River 101 (a barge) on or about the 5th of February, 2017 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did adulterate about 140,000 (One Hundred and Forty Thousand) Litres of Automotive Gas Oil, AGO, petroleum product conveyed in a Barge christined, “MV IDOMA RIVER 101″ and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1 (17) (a) of the Miscellaneous offences Act Cap M17 of the Revised Edition (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria) Act 2007 and punishable under Section 1 (18) (a) (i) of the same Act”.
The defendants pleaded “guilty” to the charges when it was read to them.
In view of their plea, prosecuting counsel A. I Arogha urged the court to convict and sentence the defendants accordingly. But the defence counsel prayed the court to temper justice with mercy as the defendants are first time offenders with no previous conviction record.
In his ruling, the trial judge, Justice J. K. Omotosho, convicted the 1st defendant to seven years imprisonment or option of One Hundred Thousand Naira (N100,000) fine on the second count and five years imprisonment with an option of One Hundred Thousand Naira (N100,000) fine on count three. The sentences are to run concurrently.
On the 3rd defendant, M.V Idoma River, 101 was ordered forfeited to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, while the second defendant, Sule Ezra was discharged and acquitted.
Recalled that the defendants were remanded prison custody in February 5, 2017 when they were arrested by officers of the Nigerian Navy at Akpos Jetty, Aboloma in Port Harcourt.
The Vessel MV Idoma River 101 with about One Hundred and Forty Thousand liters of adulterated substance suspected to be illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil and its crew of six was discovered to have been diverted from its approved destination to load AGO from a mother Vessel, Silver Point, to Delma Storage Facility, Port Harcourt and Fresh Synergy Storage, Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State by Olaniyi Oluwasayo to Akpos Jetty, Aboloma where they loaded AGO from boats.
The Vessel and Crew members were handed over to EFCC for further investigation and possible prosecution.