Bunkering: Dispute Over Legal Representation Stalled Defendants’ Trial
The trial of 10 alleged oil bunkers, who were charged before a Federal High Court, Lagos, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has been stalled due to the dispute that arose over legal representation.
The 10 alleged oil bunkers were charged before Justice Nicholas Oweibo led-court alongside a vessel names MV CX Fleet 1.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arranged 10 men before a Federal High Court in Lagos, over alleged illegal deal in petroleum products.
The 10 defendants were; Christopher Ewgeregor, Emeka Chidiebere, Erekedomene Lawrence, Collins Okorie Chukwuma, Julius Makingbene, Ededeni Bassey Okon, James Joshua, Kingsley Tamumobelema Ibiabuo, Iyobasogie Victor and Ajenu Michael.
The defendants were arraigned before the court on July 9, 2020, on a three-count charge of conspiracy unlawful and illegal dealing in 100 metric tonnes of Automotive Gas Oil, also known as diesel.
The offences according to the EFCC, are contrary to and punishable under sections 3(6) and 1(17) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, Cap. M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. And section 4 of the petroleum Act, Cap. 10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
All the defendants have denied the allegations and they were subsequently admitted to bail in various terms and conditions.
However, at the resumed hearing of the charges against the defendants on Thursday, their lawyers, Messrs Malizu Iwudoh and Earnest Usiwoma, who have appeared for them during their arraignment, went on collusion course over whom they represented.
While one of the lawyers told the court that he was directed by the employer of all the defendants to represent them, the other lawyer told the court that three of the defendants namely; Okorie Collins Chukwuma; Julius Makingbene and James Joshua remains his clients. The position which was affirmed by the three named defendants.
However, following the inability of Iwudo and Usiwoma to succumbed to each other and coupled with the absence of the third defendant, Emeka Chidiebere, both the prosecutor, Mr. Idris Mohammed and the defendants’ lawyers, sought for adjournment, to determine who represents the defendants.
Prior to the adjournment of the matter, the prosecutor, Mr. Idris, asked the court to revoke the bail earlier granted the third defendant, Emeka Chidiebere, whom he said failed to be in court without any excuse and court permission.
However, Justice Oweibo, while adjourning the matter till October 29, 2020, declined to revoke the third defendant’s bail, rather the judge issued bench warrant against him.
The defendants alongside the vessel, MV CX Fleet 1, were arrested on February 3, 2020, by the Nigeria Navy and handed over to the EFCC for prosecution.