Nigerian Army: How 26 Suspected Oil Thieves Were Ambushed
SAN FRANCISCO, May 14, (THEWILL) - A Federal High Court siiting in Abuja was Tuesday given details of how a gang of 26 suspected oil thieves were ambushed and arrested by men of the Nigerian Army along the Lokoja - Abuja road.
The accused persons include Joseph Amaechi, Israel Friday, Ubadis Francis, Abayomi Adebisi, Abdullahi Idris, Samuel Job and Onah Peter Odey.The rest are Sabo Tasha Hassan, Abduallahi Mohammed Abubakar Abdulkadir, Ehiogu Paul, Ibrahim Saidu, Garba Mohammed and Bartholomew Onyema.
They are facing a four – count criminal charge bordering on conspiracy and felony, inolving willful and malicious breaking of oil pipeline meant for the transportation of crude oil contrary to and punishable under Section 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M17, Laws of Nigeria 2004.
The offence was alleged to have been committed at Kilometre 82, Piri Village along Abaji-Lokoja road in March.
The charges signed by Salisu Majidadi of the legal unit of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) also accused them of dealing in crude oil sales without lawful authority or license, an offence punishable under the miscellaneous offence Act 2004.
An Army Lieutenant, Mohammed Bashir Sani, who gave the details of how they were arrested while testifying before the court, said the suspects were ambushed before being apprehended based on intelligence report.
The 26 suspects were arrested with 14 tankers loaded with crude oil on March 11 by the guard patrol of the Nigerian Army at a military check point in Piri village.
Sanni, who testified for the Federal Government in an economic sabotage related charges preferred against the accused persons, told the court that the accused persons ran into the Army ambush and were immediately arrested by soldiers having been hinted on their alleged crime.
Sanni told Justice Stephen Chukwu that the accused persons drove 14 tankers with crude oil and on arrival at the check point allegedly offered N20,000 bribe per tanker to the soldiers on duty in order to go unhindered.
The army lieutenant who claimed to have led the guard patrol said that the suspicion of a crude oil theft was reinforced immediately the tanker drivers freely offered the N20,000 bribe per tanker in order to move unchecked.
Led in evidence by Mrs. R. A. Ayodele, the witness told Justice Chukwu that the accused persons were arrested, their pictures taken with their tankers and moved to military locations for interrogation.
He said the Army authorities later invited EFCC authorities to further interrogate the suspects.
The witness also claimed that the apprehended 14 tankers and the bribe money were handed over to the EFCC.
Cross examined by Mr. Joseph Rotimi Ojo, the lead counsel to the accused persons, Sani admitted that he could not identify all the accused persons physically because their tankers came in convoy and were arrested in convoy.
He however told the court that he could identify them with the forensic photographs taken while they were standing with their individual tankers.
He told the court that though he had never seen crude oil in his life and was not an expert on oil field, the samples of the crude oil were made available to NNPC refinery in Kaduna for verification.
He told the court further that he could only identify one Bartholomew Onyema who drove the first tanker and Joseph Amaechi who claimed the ownership of the tankers and allegedly offered the bribe.
Sanni said EFCC carried out further investigation into the arrest and identified those to be arraigned in court.
All the accused persons however pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Their lead counsel, Barrister Joseph Oluwarotimi Ojo, applied for their bail on the ground that the offence was ordinarily bailable and that the court has disretional power to admit them on bail on liberal terms.
Justice Chukwu however adjourned ruling on the bail application till May 27 while the trial of the accused persons continues on Wednesday.
He also sent the accused persons to Kuje Prison till the date of the ruling on their bail and from where they will be coming for their trial.