Justice I.M Sani of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State has convicted and sentenced seven fraudsters and four vessels to various jail terms for illegal dealing in petroleum products. Two other fraudsters were also convicted and sentenced to other jail terms by Justice H.I. O Oshomah of the same court.
The convicts, who were sentenced separately at different dates include Promise Ibeh; Franklin Chukwu; John Amadi; Chetachi Chinedu; Austin Akobundu; Ogochukwu Opiah; Gladstone Amabebe, Abdulganiyu Hashimu and Mohammed Onawo. Four vessels: M.V Prophet Elijah( a.k.a. M.V Nicolas Marine); M.V. Aye, M.V Kome XVIII and M.V. Lady Virtue were also convicted.
The convicts were all arraigned on different days by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Port Harcourt’s Zonal Office, on one count separate charge bordering on illegal dealing in petroleum products contrary to Section 4 (1) of the Petroleum Act, CAP P10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004, and punishable under Section 4(6) of the same Act.
The one-count charge read:
“That you Promise Ibeh “M” being the driver on board the truck with Registration Number LND 231 XN on or about the 23rd of September, 2019 at Abuloma, Port Harcourt, Rivers State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did deal in petroleum product to wit: possession and transporting poorly refined Automotive Gas Oil ( AGO) without appropriate licence or authority and hereby committed an offence contrary to Section 4( 1) of the Petroleum Act, Cap P10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria( LFN) 2004 and punishable under Section 4( 6) of the same Act”.
All the defendants pleaded guilty to their one- count charges when read to them.
In view of their pleas , prosecuting counsel: Tanko Mustapha Iko; E. Abbiyesuku, Obinna Franca and Esin- Otu Ebipade prayed the court to convict and sentence them accordingly. Defence counsel: David Ayuba Dumwe; T. Ogaree, O.K. Okeke. and B. Igbongidi did not oppose the prosecution counsel’s prayers.
Justice Sani sentenced four of the convicts: Ibeh; Chukwu, Amadi and Hashimu to a fine of N100, 000( One Hundred Thousand Naira only) each; the Judge also sentenced Akobundu and Opiah to a fine of N1,100, 000, 00( One Million, One Hundred Thousand Naira only) each and sentenced Amabebe to two years imprisonment or a fine of N500,000.00( Five Hundred Thousand Naira only).
Justice Oshomah sentenced Onavo to two years imprisonment or a fine of N1,000, 000( One Million Naira only) and Chetachi Chinedu to a fine of N100,000( One Hundred Thousand Naira only). The four vessels were sentenced by Justice Sani to a fine of N1,000,000( One Million Naira only) each.
The convicts’ journeys to prison began when they were intercepted by men of the Nigerian Army, 6 Division, Port Harcourt sometimes in 2019 at different locations loading and distributing AGO using four vessels and different trucks with registration numbers: KRN 957 ZN; LND 420 XY; BRR 547 XA; MDG 113 XA; GGE 374 XB; KMM 185 XA, ABM 49 XA and LND 231 XN without appropriate licenses. They were further handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Port Harcourt ‘s Zonal Office for investigation and prosecution.