The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday, arraigned six suspected oil thieves and a vessel, MT Vine before a Federal High Court, Lagos, for allegedly stealing 1,080 metric tons of automated gas oil, popularly called diesel.
Those arraigned alongside the vessel are Okpene Peter, Lateef Akin, Sarumi Evans, Obodo Cosmos and Onipede Kayode.
However, the fifth suspect, Adams Akeem, was arraigned in absentia.
The EFCC, which arraigned the suspects before presiding judge, Rilwan Aikawa alleged that all the accused persons had on June 12, 2017, conspired among themselves to deal in petroleum products without lawful authority.
Part of the allegation read that the accused unlawfully stored 1080 Metric tons of diesel in MT Vine’s cargo tank and equally distributed the same product illegally.
According to the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, the crimes are contrary to sections 19(6), 17 and 4 of the Petroleum Act Cap. P. Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, and punishable under section 17 of the same Act.
All the accused persons pleaded not guilty after the charges were read to them
Following the arraignment of the accused persons, the prosecutor, Oyedepo informed the court that he intended to open his matter in line with section 300 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA.
Upon Oyedepo’s application, the first prosecution witness, an operative of EFCC, Egeerue Cajetan, was called into the witness box.
Cajetan informed the court that on July 19, 2017, the Nigerian Navy handed over the vessel ‘MT Vine’ and the other suspects to EFCC after an earlier letter dated July 17, notifying the Commission of the arrest.
He added that according to the Navy, the vessel and its crewmembers were arrested based on intelligence report that the vessel was carrying Automated Gas Oil believed to have been gotten illegally.
The witness also told the court that the Nigerian Navy in its letter to the commission stated that preliminary investigation carried out revealed that the product ”does not meet the true put specification.”
Further investigation conducted by EFCC in conjunction with the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the National Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) allegedly revealed that the vessel and parent company operating it in Nigeria, Maxweir Limited, did not have an operating license to lift petroleum products.
The presiding judge adjourned the matter till October 6, for the continuation of trial and ruling on the accused persons’ bail application.