By Onozure Dania
Lagos—The Court of Appeal, Lagos Division yesterday upheld the judgment of a Lagos Federal High Court, which sentenced nine foreigners to five years imprisonment each for stealing crude oil from Nigeria.
The three-man panel, Justices Hussein Mukhtar, presiding, M. L Shuaib and Fredrick Oho, struck out the appeal for lack of merit.
Justice Oho, who delivered the judgment, resolved all the issues in favour of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
He said: “All the issues are resolved against the appellants. The appeal is manifestly unmeritorious and is hereby dismissed for lacking in merit.“
The convicts are Anexl Jabone, Zahirul Islam, Juanito Infantado, Suarin Alave, Gatila Gadayan, Islam Shahinul, Islam Rafiqul, Shaikh Nomany and Rolando Comendador.
Justice Ibrahim Buba, on December 15, 2015, had convicted the foreigners- five Filipinos and four Bngladeshi of stealing 3,423.097 metric tonnes of crude oil
Justice Buba found them guilty on all the counts and sentenced them to five years imprisonment accordingly, adding that each of the convicts is to serve five year jail term, with effect from March 27, 2015.
The judge had also given each of the convicts an option of N20million fine. He said it was the likes of the convicts, who were arrested by the Navy on March 27, 2015, that gives Nigeria a bad name.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, had charged them with four counts of illegal dealing in petroleum products.
EFCC’s counsel Rotimi Oyedepo had told the court that the foreigners violated Section 1 (19) (6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, an offence punishable under section 17 of the same Act.
Oyedepo said that the convicts were caught while trying to export the stolen product on a vessel, MT Asteris and also flouted Section 4 of the Petroleum Act , Cap P10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
The Judge held that the prosecution was able to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
‘’The case of the prosecution is as clear as the daylight. “the judge held, adding that the commission’s case was not controverted.
According to the judge the convicts’ inability to prove that they had lawful permit to deal in crude oil further strengthened the prosecution’s case.
The judge further held that during trial a prosecution witness , had testified that the stolen products was illegally sourced in Nigeria , adding that the Department of Petroleum Resources confirmed it to EFCC that MT Asteris was not licensed to deal with crude oil in Nigeria.