Port Harcourt — A Chief Magistrate Court sitting in Port Harcourt, has discharged and acquitted two officers of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, after spending 51 days at the Port Harcourt correctional centre.
The officers, Mrs Aisha Ahmed and Mr Tamunosaki Jack, who are executives of IPMAN Taskforce on Illegal Oil Bunkering,
were remanded in the Correctional Centre on February 3rd, 2022, after being arrested and arraigned on trumped up charges of illegal oil bunkering, by the Operation Sting unit of the Rivers State Police Command.
The Chief Magistrate, A.O. Amadi-Nna, discharged the duo based on advice from Director of Public Prosecution, forwarded to the court which stated that there was no prima facie case against the defendants as they were members of IPMAN taskforce on illegal bunkering, who were carrying out their legitimate duties as at the time of their arrest.
The Chief Magistrate A.O.Amadi-Nna, also ordered the Rivers State Police Command to release to the defendants, the operational vehicles, the van carrying the products and 120 drums of diesel to the defendants immediately.
Speaking after their acquittal, Mrs Aisha Ahmed, who is the Press Officer of IPMAN Anti-bunkering Unit, South-South, narrated her ordeal in the hands of the Police to newsmen, saying that she was on illegal oil bunkering raid along with the Unit’s Head of Operation, Tamunosaki Jack, when they were arrested by the Police.
“Our operational vehicle broke down at Nkpogu Junction in Port Harcourt, while we were conveying 120 drums of seized suspected illegally refined petroleum products to our office, when the Camp Commandant of Rivers State Government House and officials of PHALGA arrested us, drove us round the city before handing us over to Operation Sting Police Unit.
“We were beaten up, my clothes torn by the people who arrested us and we were restricted from communicating with our lawyers, IPMAN, family or anybody. Our cell phones were taken away from us and we were treated like common criminals.
“Without investigation, in less than eight hours we were arraigned before a Chief Magistrate Court on trumped up charges, the court declined jusridiction and forwarded the case file to DPP, while remanding us to the Port Harcourt Correctional Centre.”
Meanwhile, the Centre for Basic Rights Protection and Accountability Campaign, has expressed disappointment at the action of the Operation Sting Police Unit, which did not follow due diligence in the matter before arraigning the officials of IPMAN in court which resulted to their unjustified incarceration.
National Coordinator of the group, Mr. Prince Wiro, said the development clearly shows that some innocent Nigerians were being arraigned in court by some security agents for purpose of persecution and not prosecution.
Wiro noted that the development was a pointer to the fact that some security agents saddled with responsibility of combating illegal oil bunkering in the state may be arresting and arraigning innocent persons in court to benefit from the money promised by Governor Nyesom Wike, on the fight against illegal oil bunkering.
He added that the action of the Police was questionable and the organization is considering petitioning the Inspector General of Police and the Police Service Commission on the unprofessional conduct of the officers fingered by the IPMAN officials.
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