A ship captain and 9 screw members of a local vessel, MV Peace, have been sentenced to 12 years imprisonment by a Federal High Court in Lagos, for oil theft.
The convicts are Captain James Abatan, Wasiu Owonikoko, Patrick Ameh, Johnson Ademola, Felix Otto, Chigozie Oguike, Olu Salisu, Jomo Gadagbe, Kunle Oba Saheed and Rasheed Adio.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which filed the charges against them alleged the crew members engaged in the dealing of 200 metric tons of petroleum product without lawful authority.
Justice Mohammed Idris sentenced each of the 10 crew members to a jail term of 12 years.
He ordered that the vessel and the recovered petroleum product should be forfeited to the Federal Government.
In the course of the trial, the EFCC called three witnesses and tendered eight exhibits to prove the charges against the convicts.
In his judgment, Justice Idris said the prosecution proved the allegation against the convicts beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Judge held: “The prosecution has been able to lead overwhelming evidence against the defendants. The defendants have not been able to adduce evidence capable of puncturing the evidence put forward by the prosecution. I, therefore, find all the defendants guilty as charged.”
In his allocutus, counsel for the convicts, Dada Awosika, pleaded with the Judge to temper justice with mercy, saying his clients were victims of circumstances.
“They only acted on the instruction of the vessel owner. They are mechanics, stewards, generator repairers. None of them gave evidence of having an interest in the product,” the defence counsel said.
But the prosecutor urged the Judge to reject the plea for leniency and impose the maximum penalty, so as not to encourage others to engage in the criminal act.
Ruling, Justice Idris held: “I have listened to the plea of allocutus; there is no doubt that they (convicts) are first-time offenders. It should be noted that this crime is rampant and it is almost crippling the economic survival of the country.
“In this view, I hereby sentence the convicts to five years on count one of conspiracy, five years on count two of dealing in petroleum product without an appropriate licence, and two years on count three. The jail terms are to run concurrently.”