13 February 2013

Nigeria: Court Remands Arepo Pipeline Suspects in Prison

Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos Tuesday said the six accused persons charged with vandalism of oil pipeline in Arepo, Ogun State, and murder of three Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) engineers would remain in custody.

Ruling on the bail application filed by the defendants, the judge held that the affidavit in support of the bail application contravenes section 115 of the evidence Act.

He stated that the section of the affidavit that was defective was liable to be struck out and that when such is done, it renders the affidavit bare.

"And when the affidavit is bare, it renders the application bare and liable to be struck out and is hereby struck out," he ruled.

The judge subsequently adjourned to March 13 and 14 for hearing.

The accused Joel Inerepamu (25), Reuben Oluwole (60), John Isaiah (28), Ineye Okposa (40), Timi Gunugunu (22), and Olisa Saheed (25), are standing trial on a seven-count charge bordering on pipeline vandalisation and murder of three engineers.

The court had fixed February 4, 2013, for commencement of trial of the accused persons.

At the resumed hearing of the case on February 4, counsel to the second, third, fifth and sixth accused had both moved and argued their application for bail of the accused.

Counsel representing the second, third and sixth accused, George Iheanacho, in his application urged the court to grant the accused persons bail on grounds of ill-health.

According to him, all three accused have been in bad shape of health ever since they were arrested.

He, therefore, urged the court to admit them to bail on liberal terms.

Aligning with his submission, counsel for the fifth accused, Charles Ovuru also urged the court to grant his client bail since the essence of bail was to secure the attendance of an accused in court.

But objecting to the bail application, the prosecutor, led by Toyin Ibadin, told the court to discountenance the applications made by both counsels.

Ibadin informed the court that even the first son of one of the accused seeking bail, was killed as a result of the recent explosion at Arepo.

He alleged that the deceased and his mother, were equally involved in the vandalisation of oil pipelines.

According to Ibadin, vandalisation and murder were offences carrying capital punishments, and should not be treated lightly.

He also told the court that the accused persons had no traceable residence since they resided in the creeks and so it would be difficult to trace them where they jump bail.

After listening to the submissions of both counsels, the judge adjourned the case for ruling.

The judge had ordered the remand of the accused in prison custody in November 29, 2012, after they were docked on allegations of oil pipeline vandalism and murder.

They had pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The prosecutor had told the court that the accused had conspired on September 5, 2012 at about 6 p.m., at Arepo, Ogun State, to vandalise an NNPC oil pipeline located in the vicinity.

He alleged that the accused had vandalised the pipeline and scooped out large quantities of petroleum products for illegal sale.

Ibadin also informed the court that on sighting engineers assigned to the area from the NNPC, to maintain the pipelines, the accused, who were armed with guns, opened fire on them.

He alleged that the engineers were shot dead by the accused.

According to the prosecutor, the offences contravened sections 3(6), 7(a), 7(b), and 17(a) of the Miscellanous Offence Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

He had said that the offence of murder also contravened Section 319 of the Criminal Code, Cap C 38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

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