A father of three (name withheld) who was in 2015 sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court in Lagos for allegedly using a vessel to import and export petroleum products without license has sought the Federal Government’s intervention in his case over what he described as a ‘miscarriage of justice’.
In a petition titled, ‘Summary on how I was used as bait: Injustice keeping me in Ikoyi prison since 30th of October, 2015’, the embattled man indicated that prior to his conviction in 2015, he was an employee (Assistant Commercial/Operation Manager) of Hepa Global Energy Limited, a company that owned five ocean going vessels trading in WAF with its head office at 34 Creek Road, Apapa Lagos.
Narrating his ordeal, he disclosed that it all started when a vessel (MT Good Success) out of the fleet of the company’s vessels and the crew were arrested by Nigerian Navy on 19th February, 2014, for importing and trading in petroleum product (PMS) without license. He said the matter was subsequently handed over to the EFCC for prosecution.
He further disclosed that the company’s Managing Director, Captain Adebanji Samuel Agbebi, was later invited by EFCC for interrogation and that despite the fact that he was not the staff supervising this aspect of trade/operations, the MD instructed him to appear at EFCC together with the company’s lawyer.
While at EFCC’s office, the man said he was made to write statements about what happened despite the fact that he was not on board and that it was not his schedule to have details of what was on board.
“I was detained and later charged to court by EFCC before Hon. Justice Saidu of Federal High Court (FHC), Lagos on 16th of June 2014. Myself and the crew were granted bail and the judge adjourned the case till after court vacation in September 2014 but gave a Bench ruling that the EFCC must produce the company MD in court after vacation, sell the product in the vessel and keep the proceeds with Chief Registrar of the Court and release the vessel on bond. “But the EFCC was not comfortable with the Bench ruling and thus ensured that the case was transferred from Justice Saidu’s court to a vacation Judge Court (Justice Okon Abang) to open trial immediately.
“Hon Justice Okon Abang jettisoned His learned brother’s Bench ruling; the company MD didn’t appear in court throughout the trial, product was not sold and vessel was not released on bond.
“The judge, EFCC, company’s lawyer and my boss made me to carry the cross of Captain Samuel Adebanji Agbebi. I was convicted together with the crew for 10 years imprisonment, vessel and fund in bank accounts forfeited to federal government.
“Appeal Court upheld FHC judgement on the 14th of July 2017 and that was when Captain Samuel Adebanji Agbebi stopped paying salaries and feeding allowances to the wives and children of the convicts (myself and the crew). Our children’s education was also affected.
“The vessel (MT Good Success) in question forfeited was suddenly not found at Lagos anchorage. The claim was that she submerged. It is believed that Captain Adebanji Samuel Agbebi whom EFCC claimed was at large throughout the trial at the court was moving freely around the streets of Lagos. It is being alleged in the industry that he struck a deal with the suspended EFCC boss on the vessel in question and forfeited bank accounts but I am facing the wroth of erroneous judgement despite that fact that I am innocent”
“From all indications, I am an unfortunate victim set up to take the fall for an offence I knew nothing about and in respect of which I got no benefit. It was too late before I discovered I was being used as bait by a boss I was so loyal to.
Captain Samuel Adebanji Agbabi who was in the know of the activities of the vessel and who got all the benefits of the operations of the vessel has not been arrested or prosecuted and he is walking about, a free man”, the petitioner said.
He further disclosed that by reason of the conviction, his membership of the Institute of Chartered Ship Brokers of London (MICS) is being threatened, while his family consisting of a wife and three young children have been facing tremendous challenges.
“This is a clear case of a person being convicted and serving sentence for what I know nothing about. My children have been traumatized by the absence of their father and have been going in and out of hospital. I have spent six calendar years in prison. It is a travesty of justice to allow me to remain in prison.
“It is heartrending pain and agony that all my fruitful years have been wasted away now despite my very bright and promising future in my professional career at the beginning. I laboured so hard for this career, but same seems to be eroding away at the moment because I am being made to suffer for the sin committed by Captain Samuel Adebanji Agbabi.
“Therefore, I appeal to the Federal Government and to the general public to intervene, on my behalf and that of family, for my release”, he added.