The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Tuesday January 24th , 2012, arraigned eight persons on a two count charge bordering on conspiracy and illegal dealing in petroleum products at a Federal High Court 1 sitting in Calabar, Cross River state.
The eight accused persons were arrested with illegally bunkered Automotive Gas Oil, AGO, along Calabar River , Cross River state. They are: Uwem Ante, Happier Ita-Esin, Edet Okon Usukunya, Imeh Effiong, Happy Idaoko, Paul Etim, Okon Edet Okon and Uduak Okon. Ante is the leader of the syndicate.
While taking their pleas , the first and second accused persons, Ante and Ita- Esin pleaded guilty to count one of the charges , a move that made the defence counsel , Ebet Frank, to request to file an objection to the charge. According to him, the charges are not accurate thus rendering the guilty plea taken by the first and second accused persons invalid.
The presiding Judge, Justice A. F. A. Ademola, commented on the defence counsel’s objection to the charges saying that the objection was belated and that there was nothing wrong with the charges. The prosecuting counsel, Sa’ad Hanafi Sa’ad also challenged the defence counsel’s application, saying that he should have filed his objection much earlier if he thought the charges were not accurate. However, the court ordered the defence counsel to file the charges within 48 hours and serve the prosecution accordingly.
The court also declined the bail application by the defence counsel . The case was adjourned to January 31st , 2012, while the accused persons are remanded in prison custody. It would be recalled that the accused persons were arrested by a Naval Patrol team along Calabar River, Cross River state while on board a wooden boat loaded with 120 drums of illegally bunkered AGO from Bonny River.
At the time of their arrest, the seven crew members could not provide the relevant documents to prove that they had authority to deal in petroleum products, hence they were immediately apprehended. Commanding Officer, CO, NNS Victory, Navy Commodore Kingdom Itoko, while handing over the suspects to the EFCC in Calabar said that the products and the suspects were arrested respectively in October and November 2011. He explained that in November last year, the command impounded over 100 drums of locally refined diesel from Bonny while over 80 drums of petrol were intercepted in October.
Ag. Head, Media & Publicity
31st January, 2012