Port Harcourt — The Court of Appeal in Calabar, Cross River State, has set aside the ruling of a Federal High Court in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, which acquitted two firms, Blue Dolphin Limited and Lib-Zone Petroleum Limited, in a case of alleged oil bunkering brought before it by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The EFCC on May 22, 2018 had arraigned Blue Dolphin Limited and Lib-Zone Petroleum Limited, and their owners, before Justice F. O. Riman of the Federal High Court in Uyo, on a six-count charge bordering on conspiracy and illegal dealing in petroleum products.
When arraigned, according to EFCC, the accused persons, Edward Odey Oluohu, Frank Asuquo Okon, Godwin Etim Anwanadung and their companies, pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them, setting the stage for their trial which commenced on June 22, 2018.
In the course of trial, the prosecution, through its counsel, Nwandu Ukoha presented three witnesses and tendered 14 exhibits which were all admitted in evidence, according to the Head, Media and Publicity of EFCC, Dele Oyewale.
The defence counsel, Ime Umana moved a ‘No Case Submission’ arguing that the evidence against his clients were not sufficient to justify the continuation of trial and urged the court to discharge and acquit them.
Justice Riman upheld the argument of the defence and ruled that the prosecution could not link the accused persons with the charges preferred against them.
Riman, thereafter, invoked the provisions of Section 302 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, and acquitted the accused persons and dismissed the charges against them.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, EFCC filed a Notice of Appeal on November 3, 2018 and prayed the court to set aside the acquittal of the accused persons.
Delivering judgment on Friday May 22, 2020, at the Court of Appeal, Justice Philomena Ekpe, upheld the appeal filed by the EFCC and ordered a fresh trial.
“This appeal is meritorious and hereby allowed,” she ruled.
Justice Ekpe, thereafter ordered the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to re-assign the matter to another Judge for retrial.