Five oil thieves have been convicted and sentenced to different jail terms by three Judges of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
The convicts are: Noel Akpan; Digie Global Marine Services; MT Europort, MV Sea Rich and Obinna Onyeneho Kenneth.
They were all convicted for illegal dealing in petroleum products.
While Noel Akpan, Digie Global Marine Services and a vessel, MT Europoort were convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment each by Justice S. Pam on July 22, 2021, Justice P. M. Ayuba convicted and sentenced a vessel, MV Sea Rich to three years imprisonment on July 16, 2021 while Justice E.A. Obile convicted and sentenced Obinna Onyeneho Kenneth to three years imprisonment on June 30, 2021.
The trio of Akpan, Global Marine Services and Europort were originally arraigned by the Port Harcourt Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on June 6, 2017, and pleaded “not guilty” to three-count charges bordering on conspiracy and illegal dealing in petroleum products.
They later changed their pleas to “guilty” on July 22, 2021.
One of the charges against them read, “That you Noel Akpan (a.k.a. Ughaeze Chibuzo Valentine) and others at large on about the 2nd day of June, 2015, around Forupa Waterways, Bayelsa State within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did conspire to commit felony, to wit: adulteration of 1,500 metric tonnes of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) loaded into M.T. Europort and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 3 (6) of Miscellaneous Act CAP 10 M17 of the Revised Edition (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria) 2007 and punishable under 1 (18) if the same Act”
Another count read: “That you Noel Akpan, a.k.a. Ughaeze Chibuzo Valentine, Digie Global Marine Services Ltd, and others now at large, on or about the 2nd day of June, 2015, around Forupa Waterways, Bayelsa State within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court engaged in adulteration of 1,500 metric tons of Automotive Gas Oil, (AGO) loaded into MT Europort and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1 (18) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act CAP M17 of the Revised Edition (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria) 2007 and punishable under Section 1 (18) of the Act”
Based on their pleas of “guilty”, prosecution counsel, F.O. Amama prayed the court to convict and sentence them accordingly.
Defense counsel, C.J. Nmerem did not oppose the prayer of the prosecution.
Justice Pam convicted and sentenced Akpan to two years imprisonment with an option of fine of N1million which is to run concurrently.
He convicted Digie Marine Global Services and MT Europort to a fine of N1million and N3million, respectively.
The fines are to be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federal Government.
The judge also ordered that the product on board MT Europort be sold by the Chief Registrar of the Court and the proceeds paid also into the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federal Government and evidence of payment filed in court.
Akpan’s journey to the Correctional Centre began when he was arrested by a patrol team of the Joint Task Force, JTF (Operation PULO Shield) at Forupa waterways in Bayelsa State on board MT Europort loaded with about 1,500 metric tonnes of suspected illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil (AGO).
He was handed over to the EFCC alongside the vessel and his company: Digie Global Marine Services.
In another court, Justice P.M. Ayuba convicted and sentenced MV Sea Rich to three years imprisonment.
The vessel was arraigned on one-count charge bordering on illegal dealing in petroleum products.
The charge read, “That you MV SEA RICH on or about the first April, 2017 around El-Totuama Boat Yard Waterside in Port Harcourt, Rivers State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court dealt in petroleum products to wit: Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) which was not of quality expected of such product and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 1 (18) (a) (ii) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, CAP M17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004”.
The vessel, represented by Sebastine Godwin, pleaded “guilty” to the lone charge preferred against it.
In view of the plea of “guilty” by the defendant, prosecuting Counsel F. C. Obinwa, prayed the court to convict and sentence the defendant accordingly.
Counsel to the defendant, James Allen prayed the court to temper justice with mercy, stressing that “he is a first- time offender and has no previous criminal records”.
Justice Ayuba convicted and sentenced the vessel to three years in Correctional Service with an option of fine of N1million payable into the Federal Government’s Account.
Troubles came for MV Sea Rich when it was intercepted by the patrol team of Sector 3, Joint Task Force, Operation Delta Safe, Okirika, Rivers State, on April 1, 2017, loaded with a large quantity of substance suspected to be illegally refined Automotive Gas Oil, AGO.
The captain and crew members vanished into thin air, leaving behind the vessel.
In the matter of Obinna Onyeneho Kenneth, Justice E.A Obile convicted and sentenced him to three years imprisonment on one-count charge bordering on illegal dealing in petroleum product.
The one count charge read, “That you Obinna Onyeneho Kenneth on or about the 11th September, 2019, around Borikiri, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did deal in petroleum product, which is not of good quality and being transported in a vehicle with a registration number HAF 841 TY, and thereby committed an offence contrary Section 1 (18) (a) (i) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act M17 of the Revised Edition (Laws of the Federation of Nigeria) Act 2007, and punishable under Section 1 (18) (a) (of the same Act).
In view of his plea, prosecution counsel, K.W. Chukwuma-Eneh prayed the court to convict and sentence the defendant accordingly.
Justice Obile found him guilty as charged and consequently convicted and sentenced him to three years imprisonment with an option of fine of N500,000.00).
The NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, made this known, yesterday, when he featured on Arise TV’s ‘The Morning Show’ breakfast programme.
He was reacting to the tussle between states and the Federal Government on the collection of Value Added Tax (VAT).
VAT is a consumption tax paid when goods are purchased and services are rendered, and charged at a rate of 7.5 per cent.
Although Rivers and Lagos states have started the process of collecting VAT within their territories, the Court of Appeal, in a ruling on September 10, ordered that status quo be maintained pending the determination of an appeal filed by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) against the judgment of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt.
Apart from Lagos and Rivers states, Ogun State has also started the process of passing a bill on VAT in its House of Assembly.
At the Southern Governors’ Forum meeting in Enugu, last Thursday, the 17 governors insisted that they have the constitutional mandate to collect VAT, and vowed to ensure that the rule of law prevails in the matter.
While some northern governors like Aminu Masari (Katsina), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), amongst others, had kicked against the move, the 17 Southern Governors led by Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) had unanimously supported the position that “the collection of VAT falls within the powers of the states.”
Speaking, yesterday, during the television programme, Baba-Ahmed said, “I will advise that we wait to hear what the court says. However, even the fact that it has become an issue suggests that we really do need to address the fundamentals and the manner in which the federation works.
“We have always supported restructuring. We have always asked that a major and genuine shift initiative either by groups or the National Assembly so that matters like this be addressed properly.
“If we don’t do that now, then, we should get a leader that would do that in 2023. This administration appears not to understand the importance of restructuring; we do in the North, we recognise the fact that we need to change the manner in which we generate wealth and allocate (it).
“The thing is: the North wants restructuring; the North wants fiscal federalism. We are a rich region, and we can live on what we have, even if we don’t have the billions that accrue to others states. Our poverty is not a kind of problem that we would break this country over.”
According to him, the VAT war is a wake-up call to northern governors who need to recognise the fact that VAT or no VAT, they need to develop their resources and develop the human capital of the North.
The NEF spokesman added, “North, you said you have many people but you are under-developing your own people – the biggest liability of the North is that we have a huge population that is under-developed. You need to develop the human capital that you have.
“We need leaders; the current governors don’t recognise this. Otherwise, they won’t be involved in this argument; allow the court to decide.
“But for goodness sake, (they should) begin to think — what else can we do if the court decides now that Rivers State is right, Lagos State is right, and the Southern states are right, and they won’t be getting all these billions coming in from VAT? What happens?”
Baba-Ahmed said the Northern governors at this stage should not be sleeping, noting that the North is “sitting on wealth, we have massive resources in this country, we have to fight insecurity first, and the Federal Government has to help us, we need to clear the bushes, the forests and all the criminals that are there, and we need to go back to farming.
“Agriculture is a major asset; we have land, we have water, we have livestock, we have minerals that are literally begging to be picked from the ground but our governors are too focused on the pittance that they are getting. This is wrong”, he argued.
Boxing: Joshua Facing Toughest Test In Usyk?
Joshua, 31, puts his WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles on the line against Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight world champion.
The 34-year-old Ukrainian has won all 18 professional fights, beating Tony Bellew and Derek Chisora on that run.
“Technically, Usyk is brilliant,” said Groves . “He showed that in unifying the cruiserweight division in great fights and I believe he could be Joshua’s toughest test to date. This is the first fight when I wouldn’t be surprised if Joshua got beaten.
“Joshua has fought [Wladimir] Klitschko and been in with Joseph Parker and also been beaten [by Andy Ruiz] and the only question mark for Usyk Is he big enough to compete with AJ?
“If Usyk keeps a high pace and makes Joshua miss with a lot of shots, that will work to Usyk’s advantage as he has probably got a better engine.
“Joshua is a phenomenal athlete with tremendous punching power and strength but has a tendency to tire out if the pace is uncomfortable for him.”
A crowd of more than 60,000 is expected and it will be the largest attendance Joshua has fought in front of since his win over Alexander Povetkin with 80,000 at Wembley Stadium in September, 2018.
Since then, Joshua has lost to Ruiz in New York before winning the rematch in Saudi Arabia and gained a ninth-round victory over Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev at Wembley Arena last December, with only 1,000 fans attending because of Coronavirus restrictions.
Both Joshua and Usyk won gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics, at super-heavyweight and heavyweight respectively, with the Briton going on to win 24 of his 25 professional fights, including 22 inside the distance.
Meanwhile, Dillian Whyte, who lost to Joshua in 2015 and is pushing for a rematch with him or a shot at WBC champion, Tyson Fury, believes the key to beating Usyk on Saturday is to adopt an attacking strategy.
“I think it’s a great fight and Joshua will stop him in the first six or seven rounds,” Whyte told Tidesports source.
“Usyk will start fast and Joshua should be cagey as Usyk is a bit lighter. Joshua can sometimes lack confidence but hopefully he goes back to the old him, starts pressing, being the bigger, stronger guy and gets the job done early.
“If Joshua sets the pace, he can get an early knockout and if he is strong, confident and walks him down, then I don’t see Usyk’s punches troubling Joshua.”
Groves, who held the WBA Super-Middleweight belt in 2017 and 2018, added: “If I was Joshua, I would take control of the ring and try to dominate and bully off the front foot.
“Usyk will want to be off the back foot for the first couple of rounds, then try to pepper Joshua.
“If I was in the Joshua camp, I would say: You want to keep this guy in his box. You don’t want Usyk having any confidence, so hit him hard and early.
“In the first three rounds, you want to land something big on him.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn also suggested Joshua could get an early victory.
Hearn said: “I’m always nervous for an Anthony Joshua fight, especially when you’re fighting someone that really believes he is going to win”.
2022 AFCON: ‘Cameroon On Track’
The venue will host the opening match and final of the AFCON in January and February of 2022.
A CAF delegation, including President Motsepe and General Secretary, Veron Mosengo-Omba, were joined by Cameroon’s Sports Minister, Professor Narcisse Mouelle Kombi in inspecting progress made at the Olembe Stadium and various other facilities in the capital city.
“I’m very satisfied with the briefing I got and what I saw. I saw the Olembe Stadium and it is world class; we should all be proud as people of Cameroon and as Africans,” said Motsepe, as quoted by CAF’s website.
“We must applaud Cameroon [for] building such infrastructure. In partnership with the Government, the Minister of Sports, LOC, FECAFOOT President and CAF administration under Veron [Mosengo-Omba], I’m certain that in January next year, the rest of the world will be impressed. I’m very satisfied with what I have seen. We are on track.”
Motsepe continued: “The quality of football that will be played here will once again show the world that Africa has the quality to one day win the FIFA World Cup, that is the ultimate goal. The AFCON is special and I think it is important for us to set the tone in Cameroon.”
Mosengo-Omba also heaped praises on Olembe Stadium: “The infrastructure and architecture of the stadium is world class and can be compared to many other famous stadiums globally. In Cameroon, we have six beautiful match venues. Our job now is to ensure that we are ready with everything else.”
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