The Federal High Court Port Harcourt, on Monday, remanded in custody, 16 foreign nationals on a 3-court charge bothering on oil theft in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.
The 16 foreigners from Poland, India, Sri-Lanka, and Pakistan were arrested along with their vessel Mt. Heroic Idun and remanded in the vessel and adjourned to Tuesday to allow the other 10 accused to take their pleas.
Their offences according to the charge sheet include “conspiracy to commit a maritime offence and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 10 of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act, 2019 and punishable under section 12 of the same Act.
The suspects were also accused to have on August 2022 at Akpo Oil Field, Rivers State within the exclusive economic zone within the jurisdiction of the court committed an offence of “falsefully pretended to become victims of maritime offence in order to evade lawful interception by Nigeria Navy ship Gongola (NNS Gongola) and Suppression of Piracy and other maritime offences Act, 2019 and punishable under section 12 of the same Act.”
The third charge against the suspects reads that they “attempted to deal with crude oil within the Nigeria Exclusive Economic zone without lawful authority and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 1 (17) of the miscellaneous offences Act, 2004.”
Sixteen of the accused persons who were present in the court including Captain of the ship, Mehta Tanuj an Indian, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Lead prosecution counsel, Abidemi Adewumi-Aluko, pleaded for the adjournment of the case to Tuesday to enable the remaining 10 accused persons to be arraigned and take their own pleas.
Defence counsel, Udoka Ezeobi, while not opposing the application of the prosecution counsel pleaded that they be remanded in the vessel and be granted “unfettered access to their medical needs.”
Presiding judge, Justice Adamu Turaki Mohammed, granted the applications of the prosecution counsel ordering that the men be remanded in the vessel with security personnel and that access be granted them to their medical needs.
He adjourned further sitting on the matter to Tuesday, November 15, 2022.