A vice-principal of a secondary school in Benin City, Mrs. Caroline Akoriegie and a civil society activist, Mr. Joseph Ngbede were among the eight people arraigned at a Federal High Court Benin City last Thursday for allegedly tampering with electric fittings.
This, according to a statement from the Head Key Clients Group, Abel Enechaizam, Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC), is a crime that is punishable under Section 3 (6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M.17 Laws of Nigeria 2004.
A second count of unlawful disconnection, removal, damage, tampering and interference with electric fittings, meters or other appliances designed to use for transforming or converting electricity property of the BEDC.
The suspects were arraigned at the instance of BEDC, which had complained of overwhelming energy theft through meter bypass and tampering especially from some members of the civil society who use it as a cover up to avoid payment of electricity bills.
The suspects were charged under Section 3 (6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act Cap M.17 LFN 2004 which deals with the offence of conspiracy to commit the said offence to wit: tampering with electric fittings.
If convicted, the offence carries the same penalty as committing the offence itself (life imprisonment).
Mr. Brodrick Okirierie, Igbinoba Osayende and Mrs Akoriegie Caroline who were alleged to have tampered with electrical fitting were charged under Charge No. FHC/B/6C/2017 committed the offence at Imade Street, Okhoro area of Benin- City.
The other persons-Airiofolo Daniel, Bankole Olalekan, Adeyemi Samuel, Simon Ewaocheand Joseph Ngbede charged on N FHC/B/7C/2017 were alleged to have committed the offence at No 3 Airiofolo Aremie Oko Benin City.
The suspects were also further charged for tampering with, unlawful disconnection, damage or removal of electric plants, works, cables, wires or assembly of wires designed under Section 1(9) of the aforementioned Act 2004 which deals with the offence or used for transforming or converting of electricity.
The penalty upon conviction is “life imprisonment” without the option of fine.
The charges were contained in charge number FHC/B/6C/2017 and FHC/B/7C/2017 dated January 16, 2017 and were preferred against them by police prosecutor, Ledee N-Ueh of the Edo State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID).
Joseph Ngbede was docked along with Airiofolo Daniel, Bankole Olalekan, Adeyemi Samuel and Simon Ewaoche, while Mrs. Akoriegie was arraigned along with Broderick Okirierie and Igbinoba Osayande.
The trio of Okirierie, Osayande and Akoriegie were alleged to have committed the offence on or before September 2015 and November 2016 at Okhoro area of Benin, while the others committed the same offence on or about November 25, 2016, at 3, Airiofolo Aremie, Oko, area of Benin.
They all pleaded not guilty when the offences were read to them and were granted bail in the sum of N1million and one surety who must be a civil servant of grade level 12 and above and must own property in the GRA area of Benin.
Trial judge, Hon. Justice J. I Ajoku, who adjourned the case to March 21 and March 24 for the Ngbede and co and Akoriegie and co, warned that the suspects must be brought to court and that she would withdraw their bail condition any day they are not present in court.
Bail was granted to the defendants in Charge No.FHC/B/7C/2017 at N1million each.
Two sureties in like sum, surety to be a civil servant of grade level 12 and above or own a landed property in Benin which must have a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O).
Only the first defendant Broderick Okirierie was granted bail in Charge No. FHC/B/6C/2017 while the other two defendants i.e. Igbinoba Osayende and Akoriegie Caroline were remanded in prison pending trial.
All the defendants including those granted bail were remanded in prison pending when they meet with the bail conditions as ordered by the court