Four persons, including two Indians and their company were on Wednesday arraigned before a federal high court sitting in Abuja on a four count charge for allegedly conspiring and vandalising oil pipeline in Okene, Kogi state and dealing in petroleum products without appropriate authority or license in violation of Nigerian laws.
The accused persons, Fatai Afolabi, Emmanuel Igbokwe, Tukur Mohammed, Kamal Sharma and Ashok Agarwal (both Indians) and their company, Prism Steel Mill Ltd, were alleged to have conspired and damaged the oil pipeline in Okene, Kogi state, thereby committing an offence punishable under section 1(7)(a) of the miscellaneous offences Act Cap M17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
They all pleaded not guilty to the entire counts of the charge.
Upon entering their plea, counsel representing the Indians and their company, Mr. Lawal Rabana, a senior advocate of Nigeria, told the court that one of the Indians, Mr. Ashok Agarwal, aged 66, has chronic hypertension and had since their arrest, being receiving medical treatment at the Police Force Headquarters medical centre where doctors have been managing his ailment and added that his medical condition requires constant medical observation and attention.
Rabana therefore called on the court to exercise its discretion on Agarwal and 32 years old Kamal Sharma, and grant them bail. He also added that the offences they allegedly committed are ordinarily bailable one.
The senior advocate further stated that the Indians were only personally affected by one count out of the four counts charge which alleged that they were dealing in petroleum products without lawful authority and claimed that the Indians have bundles of receipts, invoices and way bills evidencing official legal transactions with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and that their resident permits had been confiscated by the Police and can therefore not run away from their trial.
He further told the court that the company, Prism Steel Mill, is a multi billion Naira company which the Indians can not abandon just on a mere allegation and pleaded with the court to grant them bail.
Their Nigerian counterparts were yet to file their bail application and the court declined to take oral applications for their bail by their lawyers.
The trial judge, Justice A. R Mohammed thereafter remanded all the accused persons to Kuje Prisons pending the ruling on the Indians’ bail application scheduled to be delivered on the 25th of February