BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA — The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, remanded two Indians, Kamal Sharma and Ashok Agarwal, in Kuje prison following their alleged involvement in illegal diversion of petroleum products from Nigeria.
The duo who were docked alongside three Nigerians, Fatai Afolabi, Emmanuel Igbokwe, Tukur Mohammed and a company, Prism Steel Mill Ltd, pleaded not guilty to a four-count criminal charge preferred against them by the Inspector General of Police.
Specifically, Agarwal who is 66 years old and the other accused persons were accused of committing felony to wit: dealing in petroleum product without appropriate authority or licence and thereby committed an offence punishable under sections 1(7) (a) (b), 3(6), 1 (17) (a) of the Miscellaneous offences Act Cap M17 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
Besides, the accused persons were said to have on or before January 15, 2013, damaged the oil pipeline in Okene as well as interfered with free flow of petroleum product from the oil pipeline in Okene.
Meanwhile, shortly after their arraignment, yesterday, the accused persons begged the high court to release them on bail, a request that was turned down by Justice R. A. Mohammed.
The Indians had, through their lawyer, Chief Lawan Rabana, SAN, urged the court to allow them to go home pending the determination of the substantive charge against them.
However, their bail request was vehemently opposed by the prosecuting counsel, Mr Friday Ibadin, who insisted that their application was not ripe for hearing.
After listening to all the parties, Justice Mohammed remanded the accused persons in prison and adjourned till February 25 to rule on their bail application.
Meantime, Police yesterday disclosed that it has lined-up four witnesses to testify in the matter, just as it tendered a list of exhibits it intend to rely on towards proving the charge against the accused persons.
Some of the witnesses included five trucks with petroleum product recovered in the premises of Prism Metal Steel Company, the result of analysis carried out on specimen sample sent for expert analysis, Statement of the accused persons to the source of the product that it was from the pipeline and photograph of scene of recovery.
Two of the charge against them read: “That you Fatai Afolabi, ‘M’, Emmanuel Igbokwe, ‘M’, Tukur Mohammed ‘M’, Kamal Sharma ‘M’, and Ashok Agarwal ‘M’, Prism Steel Mill Ltd and others now at large on or before the 15th day of January, 2013 within the Federal High Court jurisdiction did conspire amongst yourselves to commit felony to wit: dealing in Petroleum product without appropriate authority or licence and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 3 (6) of the Miscellaneous offences Act Cap M17 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”
“That you Fatai Afolabi ‘M’, Emmanuel Igbokwe, ‘M’, Tukur Mohammed ‘M’ and others now at large on or before 15th day of January, 2013 within the Federal High Court jurisdiction did damage the Oil Pipeline in Okene and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 1 (7) (a) of the Miscellaneous offences Act Cap M17 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.”