Military Forcefully Took Away Suspected Oil Bunkers From Police Custody – IGP Tells Court

The military forcibly removed many detainees from police custody who were reportedly involved in oil bunkering, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, told a Federal High Court in Abuja.
The IGP’s counsel Idris Mohammed revealed this to Justice James Omotosho when some alleged oil bunkerers were summoned to enter a plea in a five-count criminal charge brought against them.

In a previous charge designated FHC/ABJ/CR/60/2024, the IGP named 19 accused oil bunkerers for prosecution.

The first through tenth defendants are MT Harbor Spirit, Muhammad Malik Sidique, Joju Oil and Gas Ltd, Shittu Joseph, Enudi Kenneth Amechi, Jeremiah Oberhiri Nyohe, Abiodun Kolapo Joseph, Razaq Mahmud, Onwe Jonas Egana, and Jeremiah Fezighe Gilbert.

Idon Simeon Amon, Adedeji Nathaniel Thomson, Effiong Ekpo Otu, Preye Moses Egbuson, Opoufoni Owei, Abiodun Razaq, Youngstar Amon, Collins Ebuka Eluche, and Taiye Rashid Balogun are the 11th to 19th defendants in the criminal accusation, which was filed on February 15.

However, in a revised complaint filed on February 28, the police charged just MT Harbor Spirit, a Vessel, Muhammad Malik Sidique, and Joju Oil and Gas Ltd as the first to third defendants, respectively.

In the amended charge, count one read that MT Harbor Spirit, Muhammad Malik Sidique, Joju Oil and Gas Ltd, and the 4th to 19th defendants in the earlier charge (now at large) “on February 4, 2024, in the Deep Sea in Ogbogoro Oil Field, Brass Area of Bayelsa State, conspired” to tamper with oil pipeline for the transportation of crude oil.

According to the prosecution, the offence is punishable under Section 1(7) of the Miscellaneous Offenses Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

In count two, it was claimed that on February 4 in the Deep Sea in the Ogbogoro Oil Field, Brass Area of Bayelsa State, the defendants and other people who are now at large willfully tampered with OML 59, Ogbogoro 001 Oil Field, which is run by ELF for the transportation of crude oil.

The defendants were accused in count three of trafficking in about 80,000 liters of crude oil without the proper authorization or legal authority.

In accordance with Section 4 of the Petroleum Act, Cap P10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, the defendants were charged in count five of unlawfully storing approximately 80,000 liters of crude oil in MT Harbour Spirit Cargo Tanks in the Deep Sea at Ogbogoro Oil Field without the proper license.

But Mohammed, the IGP’s attorney, told the judge that Muhammad Malik Sidique was the only defendant present.

He claimed that despite the fact that 19 defendants were the subject of a five-count charge that was filed on February 15, the military had forcibly removed the fourth through the nineteenth prisoners from their custody during one of their visits.

The attorney asked the court to issue an arrest warrant for the defendants numbered 4 through 19, who he claimed were fugitives.

Judge Omotosho, however, chastised Mohammed for telling the court that the armed forces had forcibly removed the fourth through nineteenth defendants, while Mohammed himself had claimed that they were at large.

The judge expressed disapproval at the misuse of the term “at large,” clarifying that it refers to suspects or defendants whose whereabouts are unknown.

“With what you have said that the armed forces took them to their custody, are they at large? At large is when somebody cannot be traced,” the judge said.

Subsequently, the attorney for the IGP requested permission from the court to modify the revised charges in public.

However, the judge found further irregularities in the charge sheet and instructed the prosecution to straighten up his property.

“Go and serve them there (at the military custody) and bring them, or you remove their names from the charge. We are here for justice. I don’t know them,” he directed.

The IGP’s counsel then informed the judge that the police did not hand over the defendants to the military but rather forcibly removed them from their care.

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