Lagos—Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, sentenced nine foreign citizens to five years imprisonment each after convicting them for stealing 3,423,097 metric tons of crude oil from Nigeria.
Five of the convicts are Filipinos while the other four are from Bangladesh.
The convicts were intercepted by the Nigerian Navy on March 27, 2015 while they were trying to take the stolen product loaded in their vessel, MT Asteris, out of the country.
Delivering his judgment, Justice Buba convicted them on four counts in relation to the crime and sentenced each of them to a jail term of five years with an option of N20 million.
Handing down the sentence, the judge said he was satisfied that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, which prosecuted the convicts, proved its case beyond reasonable doubts.
“The case of the prosecution is as clear as the daylight,” the judge held, adding that the failure of the convicts to supply the evidence that they had lawful permit to deal in crude oil further strengthened the prosecution’s case.
The judge said the evidence of the prosecution witnesses were not controverted.
He agreed with the PW5 who stated that the product was illegally sourced in Nigeria as “the Department of Petroleum Resources confirmed to the EFCC that MT Asteris was not lincensed to deal with crude oil in Nigeria.”
The judge further stated that it was the likes of the convicts that had made Nigeria a laughing stock in the eye of the world.
He said it was not right for anyone to deprive the country the enjoyment of its natural resources through illegal means.
Duty to send strong signal
Justice Buba said the court has the duty to send a strong signal to Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike that the country has laws and the laws are enforceable.
“It is people like the convicts that have made Nigeria a laughing stock in the eyes of the world. The court must send a strong signal that Nigeria is a nation; not a nation of booty. It is not right for either Nigerians or foreign nationals to deny this country its God-given natural resources through illegal use.”
According to him, “this court hereby sentence each of the convicts to five years term of imprisonment on count one with effect from March 27, 2015 with an option of N5 million fine.”
He also sentenced them to five years each on counts two, three and four or a fine of N5m for each count.
He held that,”All the sentences are to run concurrently but not the option of fine. In addition, the vessel, MT Asteris, and the cargo on board are forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“For purposes of clarity, each convict is to serve five years term of imprisonment with effect from 27 of March, 2015 or a fine of N20 million for all the four counts.”
The convicts who were convicted and jailed are Axel Joseph Gibo Jabone; MD Zahirul Islam; Juanito Camireno Infantado; Suarin Fernando Alave and Gatila Jaypee Gadayan.
Others are Islam Shahinul; Islam Rafiqul; Shaikh Shibli Nomany and Rolando Jose Comendador.