Pipeline Vandalism: Police Arraign 2 Indians, 3 Nigerians

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The police on Wednesday arraigned two Indians? and three Nigerians in the Federal High Court, Abuja, for damaging an NNPC pipeline in Okene, Kogi.

The Indians, Kamal Sharma, 32, and Ashok Agarwal, 66, were charged with dealing in petroleum products without appropriate authority or licence.

The charge stated that Sharma and Agarwal conspired with the three Nigerians and others at large on Jan.15 to commit felony.

It added that the Indians committed an offence punishable under the Miscellaneous Offences Act.

The three Nigerian accused,? Fatai Afolabi, Emmanuel Igboke and Tukur Mohammed, are also standing trial for damaging the oil pipeline.

The Prosecution counsel, Mr Friday Ibadi, said that the three committed an offence punishable under the Miscellaneous Offences Act.

The prosecution? noted that Afolabi, Igbokwe and Mohammed, through their illegal act on Jan.15, interfered with the free flow of petroleum products from the oil pipeline in Okene and, therefore, committed an offence.

The other defendant, Prism Steel Mill Ltd, managed by Sharma and Agarwal, was used to warehouse the stolen petroleum product, the prosecution? added.

However, the accused pleaded not guilty to the four-count charge.

Mr Lawal Rabana (SAN), counsel to Sharma, Agarwal and Prism Steel Ltd, urged the court to release his clients on bail.

Rabana pleaded: “My lord, I am seeking your discretion in an application for the bail of these people on health grounds.

“My lord, the prosecutor is aware of the fact that Agarwal is 66 years old and has a terminal ailment that requires regular management.

“In fact, the offence for which my clients are charged with is not felony because they did not participate in the alleged damaging of the NNPC pipeline in Okene.

“Sharma and Agarwal do legitimate business in the country with their company, Prism Steel Mill Ltd, and they shall not jump bail if given.''

Mr Daniel Alumun, the counsel to the other accused, urged the court to grant his clients bail as well, adding that “Section 35 of the Constitution guarantees their liberty.’’

He said the accused were assumed innocent till it was proved otherwise.

The prosecutor, however, opposed the bail application, saying that the offence for which they were charged was severe.

“The law, under which the accused applicants are charged with stipulates life imprisonment as punishment for act of economic sabotage,’’ Ibadi said.

The Judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, reserved Feb. 25 for ruling and ordered that the accused be remanded in prison.

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