Illegal bunkering: Appeal Court affirms conviction….orders vessel forfeiture to FG

The Court of Appeal Lagos Division, Thursday affirmed the conviction of two businessmen, – Ala Atubokiki and Wole Ajayi by the Federal High Court, Lagos, over illegal oil bunkering.

The Court affirmed the two-year jail term on each count or option of fine imposed on the duo by Justice Ibrahim Buba on April 26, 2016.
The appellate court also affirmed the forfeiture of a vessel – MV Long Island to the Federal Government.
The three-man panel, led by Justice Y.B. Nimpar, declined to award costs in favour of the respondent, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC was represented by its counsel Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, who prosecuted the matter at the lower court.
Justice Nimpar held: “This appeal is dismissed for lacking in merit. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed. I make no order as to costs.”
In one of the applications, Atubokiki prayed the court to set aside the high Court decision and upturn his conviction.
The appellant said Justice Buba erred in law when he convicted him and 19 others of conspiracy to deal with or in petroleum product without licence.
In his judgment, the judge held that the prosecution had proven its case beyond reasonable doubt.
Buba convicted Atubokiki on a three-count charge of dealing in petroleum product without a lawful authority or appropriate licence and unlawful storing of approximately 200 metric tons of petroleum product contrary to the provisions of Miscellaneous Offences Act and the Petroleum Act.
He sentenced him to two years imprisonment on each count, starting from December 2, 2014, when the convicts were arrested with an option of N200, 000 fine for each count.
The convicts also forfeited all seized vessels, cargoes and properties to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, while the jail terms ran concurrently.
The appellate court dismissed four appeals filed, May 2016 by the duo along with a firm, GFL Marine Services and a vessel, MV Long Island, for want of merit.
The court held that all four appeals have “three counts, same facts, same findings, but different parties.”


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