The Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has convicted 12 oil thieves for illegally trading in petroleum products.
The presiding judge, Justice A. T Mohammed who delivered the judgment on Wednesday, sentenced the criminals to a fine of N100,000 each.
The convicts are Kabiru Saidu, Saleh Muhammed, Yusuf Bala, Salisu Usman, Hamisu Sha’Ibu, Aliyu Muhammed, Umar Mohammed, Muhammed Aliya, Sunday Emmanuel Udo, Malam Garba Abubakar, Ifeanyi Duru and Sani Haruna.
Acting Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, spokesman, Tony Orilade, in a press release, said the convicts were intercepted by men of the Nigerian Army, 6 Division, at different locations in Port Harcourt for dealing in petroleum products without a licence.
Trading in petroleum products without a license violates 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.
It is unclear, how much Nigeria loses to crude oil theft daily but an AfriCheck report in 2015 estimates that between 250,000 to 100,000 barrels of crude oil are stolen daily.
The EFCC, Port Harcourt zonal office, arraigned the convicts on a one-count separate charge, bordering on illegal dealing in petroleum products.
Investigations carried out by the EFCC revealed that the convicts were arrested alongside trucks with registration numbers: XL 985 KRD, XE 471 GUS, KMC 846 XA, NSR 08 ZL GME 185 XX; MKA 719 ZB; JMT 155 YR; BDG 196 XS; KAF 681 XA; EZA 766 XA and XR 690 PHC.
The count charge reads “That you Kabiru Saidu, sometimes in, 2017 at Abuloma, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did distribute petroleum products, AGO, conveyed in a truck with registration number XL 985 KRD and thereby 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”.
The defendants pleaded guilty when the charges were read to them.
In view of their pleas, prosecuting counsels, A. Osu, C. O Ugwu, Esin-Otu Ebipade, F. C Obinwa, and M. T Iko prayed the court to convict and sentence the defendants accordingly.
Counsels to the defendants, M. M. Suleiman, Babatunde Opadola and E. X Eboh did not oppose the prayer of the prosecution.
Justice Mohammed ordered the convicts to pay a fine of N100,000 and ordered that the products found with them should be forfeited to the Federal Government.