Illegal Oil Bunkering: Court orders fresh trial of Blue Dolphin Limited, others

Justice Philomena Ekpe of the Court of Appeal, Calabar division, Cross Rivers State, on Tuesday, set aside the decision of a Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, which acquitted Edward Odey Oluohu, Frank Asuquo Okon, Godwin Etim Anwanadung and their companies, Blue Dolphin Limited and Lib-Zone Petroleum Limited, in a case of alleged oil bunkering brought before it by the Uyo Zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The EFCC on May 22, 2018 arraigned Oluohu alongside Okon, Anwanadung and their companies, Blue Dolphin Limited and Lib-Zone Petroleum Limited before Justice F. O. Riman of the Federal High Court, Uyo, on a 6-count charge bordering on conspiracy and illegal dealing in petroleum products.

A statement signed by the Commission’s Head of Media & Publicity, Dele Oyewale explained that when arraigned, the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them , setting the stage for their trial which commenced on June 22, 2018.

He further stated that in the course of trial, the prosecution, through its counsel, Nwandu Ukoha presented three witnesses and tendered 14 exhibits which were all admitted in evidence.

The defence counsel, Ime Umana moved a ‘No Case Submission’ arguing that the evidence against his clients were not sufficient to justify the continuation of trial and urged the court to discharge and acquit them.

Justice Riman upheld the argument of the defence and ruled that the prosecution could not link the accused persons with the charges pressed against them.

She thereafter invoked the provisions of Section 302 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, and acquitted the accused persons and dismissed the charges against them.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC filed a Notice of Appeal on November 3, 2018 and prayed the court to set aside the acquittal of the accused persons. Delivering judgment on Monday May 18, 2020, at the Court of Appeal, Justice Ekpe on behalf of Justice M. L. Shuaibu, upheld the appeal filed by the EFCC and ordered a fresh trial. “This appeal is meritorious and hereby allowed,” she ruled.

The Judge thereafter ordered the Honourable Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to reassign the matter to another Judge for retrial.

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