11 Indians arrested for oil theft released from Nigerian jail

Eleven Indians, who had been arrested and detained in Nigeria for about two years for alleged oil theft, reached New Delhi on Sunday after being released by Nigerian authorities a day earlier.

As they arrived the Indian capital, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the government was also doing its best to secure the release of two Indians abducted in Nigeria recently.

A Federal High Court in Calabar on Thursday freed the 11 Indians, three Ghanaians and two Nigerians facing trial for alleged oil theft in Nigeria’s territorial waters.

In the suit number FHC/YNG/CS/82C/2014 filed on behalf of the Federal Government by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the suspects were said to have been arrested on board MV Maro on July 22, 2014 at the Agbara platform in Bayelsa State by officials of the Nigerian Navy.

The 16 suspects listed as defendants were Robert Petor; Wilfred Fianu; Raphael Agidi; Soni Kumar; Pradeep Sharma; Manoj Kumar; Ajay Kumar; Joseph Tadan; Puran Tadan; Heeray Todan; Mr. Parveen; Ankit Rana; Hanson Jacob; Joyful Rongme; Muhammed Alan and Quashnie Kofi.

But after the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Ramiah Ikhanaede, had closed his case with several documents which were admitted as exhibits, defence counsel for the suspects immediately filed a no-case submission.

In his ruling on the no-case submission, presiding judge of the Federal High Court, Calabar, Justice Inyang Ekwo, said the prosecution counsel could not prove his case.

For lack of evidence, Justice Ekwo, therefore discharged and acquitted the 16 suspects including the agents of Saroj Shipping Company and the MV Maro vessel itself.

“The prosecution did not establish any nexus of conspiracy. The evidences provided have nothing to do with conspiracy. All the defendants are therefore discharged and acquitted,” he said.

Counsel for the EFCC was absent during the ruling, but defence counsel for the 11 Indians, Jerry Omoregie, said the ruling was a straight confirmation that there was no case.

In October 2013, the 11 Indians reportedly joined a merchant vessel in Ghana as employees. They were arrested by Nigerian Navy officials in Brass for alleged involvement in crude oil theft.

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