A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday sentenced nine foreigners to five years imprisonment for stealing 3,423 metric tons of crude oil. Among the convicts were five Filipinos and four Bangladeshi.
They are Axel Joseph, Gibo Jabone, Juanito Camireno, Suarin Fernando and Gatila Jaypee. Others are Islam Shahinul, Islam Rafiqul, Shibli Nomany and Rolando Comendador.
Justice Ibrahim Buba convicted them on four counts in relation to the crime and sentenced each of them to a jail term of five years. He, however, gave an option of N20 million fine.
Delivering the judgment, Buba said that he was satisfied that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), proved its case beyond reasonable doubts.
``The case of the prosecution is as clear as the daylight," he said
He added that the failure of the convicts to supply 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 was not opposed.
He agreed with 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 licenced to deal with crude oil in Nigeria.
The judge noted 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 by illegal means.
Justice Buba said the court had the duty to send a strong signal to Nigerians and non-Nigerians, that the country had laws which were 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 foreigners to deny this country its God-given natural resources through illegal use.
``Accordingly, this court hereby sentence each convict to five years imprisonment on count one with effect from March 27, with an option of N5 million fine," the judge held.
He also sentenced them to five years imprisonment each on counts two, three and four or a fine of N5 million for each count.
The judge held that all the sentences were to run concurrently excluding the option of fine.
In addition, the judge ruled that the vessel, MT Asteris, and the cargo on board are to be forfeited to the Federal Government.
``For purposes of clarity, each convict is to serve five years term of imprisonment with effect from March 27 or a fine of N20 million for all the four counts." he held.
The convicts were arrested by the Nigerian Navy on March 27 while trying to export the product which was loaded in their vessel, out of the country.
The EFCC prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, had told the court that the foreigners acted contrary to Section 1(19) (6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation, 2004.
Oyedepo said the offence also contravened the provisions of Section 4 of the Petroleum Act, Cap P10, Laws of the Federation 2004.
To prove his case, he called six witnesses.