The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Port Harcourt Zonal Office, on Wednesday arraigned Augustine Ofehe, Patience Tony and a barge before a Federal High Court sitting in Bayelsa.
EFCC charged the duo on two-count charges of conspiracy and illegal dealing in petroleum product.
However, when the charges were read to the defendants, they pleaded “not guilty.”
The first and second defendants, who had no license to deal in petroleum products, were arrested alongside a metal barge podium, loaded with an unspecified quantity of illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil by officers of the Nigeria Navy of Forward Operation Base FOMOSO, on May 15, 2017, and handed over to the EFCC for further investigation and prosecution.
One of the charges read: “That you Augustine Ofelie and Patience Tony on or about the 15th day of May 2017 in Bayelsa State, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, without an appropriate licence to deal in petroleum product to wit: 600,000 litres of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO/diesel), conveyed in a metal barge podium and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(1) (a) and punishable under section 1 (17) (a) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, CAP M17 of the revised Edition (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria), 2007 and punishable under section 1 (17) of the same Act.”
In view of their pleas, prosecuting counsel, M. T. Iko prayed the court for a commencement date of trial and for the defendants to be remanded in prison custody.
However, counsel to the first defendant, D. J. Nwoniowei made an oral application for his bail, which was adopted by counsel to the second defendant, H. M Emerenini who added that his client was a nursing mother.
On his own part, counsel to the third defendant (barge) said he will formally approach the court for the bail application of the vessel.
Justice J. E. Inyang, who presided over the case, admitted the first and second defendants to bail in the sum of N1million each with reliable sureties in like sum, who must be resident in Yenagoa, and would deposit their two recent passport photographs and valid means of identification with the court.
The sureties are also required to swear to an affidavit of means and must make their phone numbers available to the court, while their verification would be carried out by the crime investigating officer.
The judge remanded the defendants in EFCC custody and adjourned the matter till October 5, 9 and 12, 2020 for trial.