Absence of judge stalls trial of 11 men charged with pipeline vandalism in Lagos

The absence of Justice Musa Kurya of a Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday stalled the trial of 11 fishermen charged with pipeline vandalism.

The accused are Sidi Egbayelo, 29; Sunday Shadrach, 39; Edem Okon, 30; Godwin Kofa, 28; Rosemon Neito, 30; Ejona Kpamkpam, 23; and Moses Victor, 28.

Others are Chris Sunday, 29; Peter Gay, 21; Remo Uchugwu, 23; and Mike Sabato, 29.

They are standing trial on a four-count charge of conspiracy, vandalism, stealing, and unlawful possession of petroleum products.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the case which was fixed for Wednesday for continuation of trial could not be heard following the absence of the judge.

No reason was given by the court’s registrar for the absence and the case was adjourned to Nov. 3.

NAN also reports that the accused were arraigned on Feb. 7, 2013 and they all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Justice Kurya had granted them bail in the sum of N2 million each with two sureties each in like sum.

Previous hearings on May 7 and June 30 could not proceed following the absence of a prosecution witness and the judge respectively.

The prosecutor, Mr Justin Enang, had told the court that his witness, an investigating police officer, had been transferred out of the court’s jurisdiction.

He assured the court that a message would be sent to the witness in a bid to secure his attendance in court on the next hearing date.

In the charge, the accused were said to have committed the offences on Dec. 21, 2012.

The prosecutor said they were apprehended at 1.00 a.m. on the day at Atlas Cove in Lagos.

According to the prosecutor, about 220 drums of petrol were recovered from the accused, who scooped the product from a vandalised pipeline for illegal sale.

He said that the product was valued at N5.3 million.

The offences contravened the provisions of Sections 390 and 516 of the Criminal Code, 2004.

It also contravened the provisions of Section 7(a), (b) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, 2004.