The matter was presided over by Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Federal High Court, Abuja
AT the proceedings at the federal high court in FCT, Abuja, the Department of State Services (DSS) the prosecuting agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria prosecuting the CEO of Capital Oil and Gas Limited, Chief Ifeanyi Ubah, of maliciously converting about 80 million litres of Nigeria’s petrol (Premium Motor Spirit), kept in his custody by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
At the sitting of the Court, the DSS argued in their Counter Affidavit and Written Address in opposition to an application by Ubah, asking a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Jabi, Abuja, to set aside an order for his detention for 14 days.
The DSS disclosed in their Counter Affidavit that the malicious criminal conversion of Nigeria petrol amounted to economic sabotage punishable by death.
It was further enumerated in their Counter Affidavit sworn to by Mr. Bello Safwan, an operative of DSS that Chief Ifeanyi Ubah neglected, refused and abandoned the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)’s several demands for the converted petroleum product worth in value of N11billion.
“The respondent (Ubah) was arrested on reasonable suspicion of his involvement in the commission of crime. He converted PMS, belonging to the NNPC, kept in the custody of his tank farm, to his personal use.
That the deliberates act of Mr. Ubah threw the nation into economic quack mire scarcity due to scarcity of the petroleum product witnessed by the general public which could plunge the country into political anarchy.
“The respondent refused to return the PMS to the NNPC after repeated demands. The PMS is worth over N11bn. The action of the respondent is affecting the distribution of petroleum products to the populace.
“The action of the respondent is sabotage of NNPC’s activities as it relates to the distribution of petroleum products. If not for the urgent steps taken by the Federal Government, the action of the respondent would have plunged the country into widespread scarcity with its attendant effect on the economy.
“Petroleum is the lifeblood of the Nigerian economy. NNPC is a major stakeholder in the petroleum industry in Nigeria. An attack on the Nigerian economy is an economic threat to national security dimension.
“The Nigerian populace will suffer untold hardship if NNPC is unable to discharge its statutory responsibilities, including distribution of petroleum products as well as generating revenue for the country.
“The action of the respondent, if not checked, is capable of undermining the NNPC in the discharge of its duties. Investigation into the activities of the respondent is yet to be completed. A premature released of the respondent will adversely impact on the investigation, which is nearing completion.”
Justice Yusuf Halilu of the Federal High Court, Abuja had earlier in the proceedings of the matter gave an order to the DSS on May 10, 2017, allowing the DSS to remand the Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah (the suspect) in prison custody for 14 days pending the completion of an ongoing criminal investigation against him.
At the proceedings, Counsel to DSS, Mr. G. Agbadua, told Justice Halilu on Tuesday while addressing the court, adopting and arguing his application and Written Address before the judge argued as follows
Malicious criminal conversion of Nigeria petroleum products under the existing Petroleum Production and Distribution (Anti-Sabotage) Act, 2004 was punishable by death.
“The action of the Respondent (Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah) to sabotage the distribution of petroleum products is a capital offence under the Petroleum Production and Distribution (Anti-Sabotage) Act, 2004 and also under Section 383 of the Criminal Code.
“The act of the respondent was capable of plunging the country into chaos as a result of scarcity of product had the NNPC not taken a proactive step to forestall such situation. This clearly brings the action of the respondent under the provision of the Petroleum Production and Distribution (Anti-Sabotage) Act, 2004.
“The punishment of sabotage under this Act attracts death penalty. It is clear that the respondent was arrested for the conversion of the property of the NNPC. It is not just ordinary stealing, it is stealing of the lifeblood of the nation.
“Oil is the major source of revenue of the Federal Government. Stealing of the revenue is a crime against the economic interest of Nigeria and therefore, falls within the purview of economic threat of national security dimension.
Also the Respondent (Ifeanyi Ubah) was dully represented by his lawyer, Ifeoma Esom (Mrs), urged the Hon. Court to either set aside its order of May 10 or order the Respondent (Ifeanyi Ubah) release on the grounds that his continued detention was unjustifiable and infringement of her Client’s right to liberty.
According to the Respondent’s counsel, Ifeoma Esom (Mrs) stated that her Client the Respondent (Ifeanyi Ubah), who is the CEO of Capital Oil and Gas, had been one of the largest “throughput provider” for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for a long time in the country.
Counsel to the Respondent, Ifeoma Esom (Mrs.) further adumbrates on the nature of the matter that the issue on ground was purely civil and contractual matter between two aggrieved contractual parties and not criminal matter.
The governing laws and procedures as clearly provide remedy for a breach contract and how to remedy same under the circumstances of the case.
“The failure to re-deliver is expressly stated by the contract to be a mere breach of contract, remediable by the payment of penalty to the owner. There can therefore be no issue of crime in conversion of products under a throughput contract (regardless of the ordinary connotations of those words).”
The Hon. Justice Halilu of the Federal High Court, Abuja heard both parties according and further adjourned the matter till 25 May 2017 for ruling.