The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) Thursday, arraigned a retired naval officer, Mrs. Bola Labinjo, whose service name is Lieutenant Commodore SA Ibe Lambert and four men alongside a vessel, MT Handling Jumbo before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos for an alleged illegal bunkering.
Arraigned alongside the retired naval officer before Justice (Professor) Chuka Obiozor on a two-count charge of conspiracy and unlawful dealing in petroleum product are: Jonathan Abuka, Ikemefuna Charles Agaba, Benjamin Gold and Hamzat Yakubu, while the vessel was represented by Nike Folarin, its Chief Financial Officer.
The EFCC in charge marked FHC/L/250c/2019, alleged that the naval officer and other defendants had between August and September 2018, at the coast of Gabon, conspired among themselves and dealt in Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) popularly called diesel.
The EFCC prosecutor, Stephen Odiase, told the court that the defendants were arrested on August 13, 2018, by the men of Nigeria Navy, on the coast of Guinea with the vessel loaded with the petroleum product without appropriate licence to so.
He told the court that the offences committed by the defendants are contrary to sections 3(6) and 1 (19) (a) and (b) the Miscellaneous Offence Act Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (Revised Edition) 2004 punishable under sections 1(17) (b) of the same Act.
The defendants however pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Following the defendants’ plea, the prosecutor asked the court for a trial date.
But counsel to the 1st to 5th defendants who include Mr. Jerry Omoregie, O. J. Omoruwayo, Uche Obi and Nelson Otaji, filed their different bail applications, urging the court to admit their clients to bail in the liberal terms.
They informed the court that their clients have been in custody since they were arrested in August and September last year, adding that they were brought to court following an order of Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of a Lagos Federal High Court, that ordered their release.
The counsel told the court that their clients are first time offenders without any previous criminal record.
But the prosecutor, Odiase, urged the court to refuse the defendants’ bail applications, on the ground that the alleged offence is an economy sabotage which affects the country negatively.
Ruling on the bail applications, Justice Obiozor, who is a vacation judge said he is incline to grant the applications of the defendants following the averments in their applications, most especially since they have been in detention since August and September 2018.
Consequently, the judge admitted each of the defendants to bail in the sum of N10 million with one surety in like sum each.
The judge also ordered that the surety must produce three years tax, means of livelihood, their statement of account, title of landed property and two of their passport photograph.
All the bail conditions are to be verified by the court’s Deputy Chief Registrar (DCR).
Justice Obiozor however, granted the request of the release in the interim, the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th defendants, to their counsel, upon an application made for such. But with a caveat, that the counsel should deposit their original Call-to-Bar Certificate with the court’s deputy registrar. He added that the bail term granted them must be fulfilled within 14 days, upon which the defendants will be remanded in prison custody.