Eleven Nigerian oil thieves have been found guilty, five years after they were arrested in Delta state, but none may set foot in prison after a judge gave them the option to pay $550 (N200,000) fine each or spend three years behind bars.
The convicts were prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Port Harcourt’s Zonal Office, for oil theft.
Justice M.S. Abubakar of the Federal High Court sitting in Warri, Delta state found them guilty of the two-count charge of illegal dealing in petroleum products.
The convicts are: Ephraim Akpan, Agadagba Ochuko, Clement Tommy, Oyayefa Abonne, Bousou Kereotu, Dereye Harry, Lucky Abonne, Dapo Obdare, Friday Ibude, Ebi Ekokeme, and Vincent Elayegha.
The convicts and their vessel, MT Petroitti, were arrested on May 23, 2014, by officers of the Nigerian Navy following a tip-off around Ofoma oil terminal in Delta State, with about 272 metric tons of substance suspected to be crude oil and handed over to the EFCC.
They were first arraigned on March 4, 2015, and pleaded “not guilty” to the charges prompting the case to go into full trial.
The vessel, MT Petroitti was also found guilty on count two and sentenced to a fine of N500,000. The trial judge further ordered its forfeiture and the cargo onboard (about 272 metric tons of crude oil) to the Federal Government.