A gang of illegal automotive gas oil dealers were last week arraigned at the federal high court in Lagos before Justice Rilwan Aikawa for illegal dealings in petroleum products without licence.

The gang of 19 men who pleaded gulity to the charge include, Ayeah John, Emmanuel Tosin, Ayetiniyi Ademola Agbayo Lawrence Adelia Thomas, Idowu Surprise, Benjamin ThankGod and others.

One of the defendants, Elaamah Augustine, pleaded not guilty.

The defendants were intercepted at about 4:00 pm on the 30th of August 2018 by the Nigerian ship, Beecroft while on patrol on Atlas Golf Island with 2 fibre boats loaded with 21,840L of Automotive Gas Oil.

Subsequently, in the course of investigations, 10 other crew members were arrested and it was revealed that the source of the product was from one Mama Elizabeth.

Also, the sum of N3.5m was recovered from one of the defendants in this matter which was said to be part of the proceeds of the illegal dealings. Two locally made guns were also recovered from the 19th defendant.

The EFCC counsel Mohammed Idriss told the court that the Nigerian Navy later transferred the matter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the defendants were confronted with the findings of the investigations and they volunteered for a plea bargain which the commission accepted.

Mohammed further tendered pieces of evidence to support their findings such as a letter from the Nigerian Navy dated 13th of December, 2018 addressed to the acting chairman of the EFCC, Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft letter dated 25th, January 2019, the statements volunteered by the arresting officers, M.A Yakubu and Aminu Ahmed as well as the statements of the 18 defendants who pleaded guilty.

Also in evidence were documents from the exhibit keeper for the 2 locally manufactured guns and the N3.5m.

The prosecuting Counsel further urged the court to convict the defendants.

Justice Aikawa after taking a critical look at the pieces of evidence tendered by the prosecution as well as having pleaded guilty for the charges against them, found them guilty as charged.

The court after considering the plea bargain, voluntarily entered by the defendants and granted them each, 1-year imprisonment on each of the count charges to run concurrently beginning from the day of arrest.

The court further stipulated that the defendants upon release must enter into a bond with the EFCC to be of good behaviour and never to be involved in any illegality again.

In the ruling, the court forfeited the sum of N3.5m to the federal government of Nigeria and instructed that the 21,840L of automotive gas oil be sold by the EFCC in collaboration with appropriate government body or private organisation and the proceeds realised be remitted into the federation account.

And finally that the 2 locally made guns be forfeited to the the federal government and handed over to the Nigerian police force for destruction.

The other defendant, Augustine who pleaded not guilty is yet to get his bail pending trial.

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