SIX foreigners and a Nigerian have been jailed for seven years by a federal high court in Port Harcourt after they were found guilty of oil theft in a suit brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Oil bunkering is very common in Nigeria’s Niger Delta with locals and foreigners conniving to smuggle crude out of the area in barges and sell it on the international market. In this instance, however, the EFCC were able to nab the perpetuators and after a three year trial, they were convicted yesterday.
Justice JK Omotosho handed down the sentence yesterday after all seven men were found guilty of the crime. They included two Pakistanis Mohammed Ejaz and Nasser Khan, two Ukrainians Oleksandr Nazarenko and Oleksandr Kashernvi, a Ghanaian Romeo Annang and an Indonesian identified as Fredrik Omenu.
EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren, identified their Nigerian as David Otuohi. They were all arraigned on November 21, 2017 alongside three other foreigners and another Nigerian for oil theft, however, the others Victor Mikpayi (Beninois), Francis Ahorlu and Kwesi Attah (Ghanaians) and Victor Azebiri (Nigerian) were discharged and acquitted by the court.
They were arraigned alongside a company, Asztral Shipping Corporation and a vessel named as MT Tecne on four counts bordering on conspiracy, dealing in petroleum products without a licence and tampering with oil pipelines. All the defendants pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
Their pleas prepared the ground for their trial by the EFCC, which for three years presented evidence and witnesses against the convicts. In his judgment, Justice Omotosho found them guilty of all the four charges and sentenced them to seven years’ imprisonment with an option of N2m fine each, while four of the defendants were discharged and acquitted on the grounds that they were not linked to the commission of the crime.