Five Filipinos and four Bangladeshis accused of crude oil offences in Nigeria were today sentenced by the Federal High Court in Lagos to 20 years imprisonment each, with fine options of N20million per person.
The court also ordered their vessel, MT Asteri, to be forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria, together with the crude oil on board.
The convicted Philippine nationals are: Axel Joseph Gibo Jabone, Juanito Camireno Infantado, Suarin Fernado Alave, Gatila Jaypee Gadayan and Rolando Jose Commendador; while the Bangladesh nationals are Md Zahirul Islam, Islam Shahinul, Islam Rafiqul and Shaikn Shibli Nomany.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had alleged that on or about March 27, 2015 in Lagos the nine men conspired to commit an offence involving dealing in 3423.097metric tons of crude oil without lawful authority or appropriate license, contrary to Section 1(19)(6) of the Miscellaneous Offence Act, Cap M17.
It was also alleged that the suspect on the same day and time, stored 3,423. 097 metric tons of crude oil in MT Asteris' cargo tanks, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 4 of the Petroleum Act of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
They all pleaded not guilty to all the charges against them, following which defence counsel Femi Adegbite applied for their bail, which was not opposed by the prosecution.
The trial judge, Justice Ibrahim Buba, granted them bail in the sum of N50 million each, with one surety who must be a Nigerian, provide evidence of means, and deposit his passport with the registrar of the court.
Prosecuting Counsel Rotimi Oyedepo called seven witnesses and tendered many exhibits to prove his case, while the suspects testified for themselves in the rigorous trial. .
Finding the suspects guilty, Justice Buba described the convicts as numbering among the saboteurs who have turned Nigeria into the laughing stock in the comity of Nations, warning that Nigerians and non-Nigerians must respect Nigeria and its laws.
He sentenced each convict to five years on each of the four counts, with an option of five million Naira fine on each of them. While the sentences are to run concurrently, the option of five is not.