01 December 2015, Lagos —A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has discharged and acquitted 10 accused, charged with the Arepe pipeline vandalism and killing of three engineers of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The accused are: Joel Inerepamu, 25, Rueben Oluwole, 60, John Isaiah, 28, Ineye Okposa, 40, Timi Gunugunu, 22, Olisa Saheed, 25, Jigo Jiperende, 31, Timi Koro, 29, Johnbosco Igbhofose, 26, and Peter Opidi, 28.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have conspired to vandalise an oil pipeline located at Arepo in Ogun State.
It was alleged that on sighting engineers on maintenance work from the NNPC, the accused opened fire and in the process, shot three of the engineers dead.
They all pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Justice Mohammed Idris had ordered accelerated hearing of the case.
The prosecution called a total of 10 witnesses, while the accused testified for themselves.
In his judgment, yesterday, Justice Idris held that the prosecution failed woefully to discharge the burden of proof placed on it, in establishing the guilt of the accused.
“A summary of the evidence of eye witnesses, is that they were in Arepo near Ikorodu on September 5, 2012 when petroleum vandals opened fire on them and they scrambled for safety; however, some of their members were missing till date.
“All the eye witnesses could not identify the vandals who shot at them, neither was it proved that the persons named in counts five, six and seven were dead. A pathologist report was never tendered and there was no proof that the NNPC engineers, who were reported missing, were dead; the witnesses merely suspected that the victims were dead.
“The prosecution initially, filed proof of evidence signed by ACP Ibadin, Legal officer prosecuting counsel, in which the ninth and 10th accused were named as witnesses. However, in a dramatic turn, the witnesses later became accused persons in an amended charge dated April 12, 2013.
“In my view, the prosecution has failed to meet the requisite standard of proof which is beyond reasonable doubt and the court so hold. It is clear that the first to eight accused were charged on mere suspicion and the law is clear that suspicion no matter how strong, cannot amount to proof in criminal trial, it is a wavering accusing finger which must stand straight to establish guilt.
“I hold that the entire body of evidence led by the prosecution is inadmissible; it is better to save several guilty men, than to condemn one innocent man. This court cannot find its way clear, in convicting the accused based on the evidence adduced by prosecution; this case must therefore fail.
“All of the accused persons are hereby discharged of all counts of the charge, and this court so hold” Idris held.