By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Abuja Division of Federal High Court, yesterday, remanded two Indians, Kamal Sharma and Ashok Agarwal, in Kuje prison over 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 4-count criminal charge preferred against them by the Inspector General of Police.
Specifically, Agarwal, 66, 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 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 at Okene, as well as interfered with free flow of petroleum products from the oil pipeline in the town.
Meanwhile, shortly after their arraignment yesterday, the accused persons begged the high court to release them on bail, a request which was turned down by trial 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.
Agarwal ask the court to consider his age, saying he was hypertensive and needed regular medical attention.
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, even as he adjourned till February 25 to rule on their bail application.
However, Police yesterday disclosed that it had lined-up four witnesses to testify in the matter, just as it tendered a list of exhibits it intended 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, 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.