Three staff of Shebah Exploration and Production Company Limited, in Ilaje Local Government Council Area of Ondo State, have been arraigned in court for murder, arson, malicious damage, and destruction of property during illegal bunkering activities.
The workers, namely Anthony Nwuba, Orofin Pius Yomi, and Patrick Aganyebi, were said to have murdered nine persons by setting a vessel ablaze while carrying out illegal bunkering activities, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 316 (9) of the Criminal Code.
The trio were accused of causing an explosion that set ablaze Sheba Company vessel valued at N41.6 billion through illegal bunkering activities contrary to Section 443 (b)of the state Criminal Code.
However, counsel to the suspects, Dr. Benson Enikuomehin, said, “It was callous on the part of the Police to charge workers of the company for murder when, indeed, they escaped death by the whiskers when the vessel they were working with exploded on the sea.”
The explosion was said to have occurred at the Trinity Spirit floating production, storage, and offloading vessel which belongs to Shebah Exploration and Production Company Limited, a producer from OML 108 covering 750 square km (290 square miles) off the waters of the Niger Delta in Ondo State.
Not all the bodies of the nine persons who reportedly lost their lives in the explosion were recovered. A total of 60,000 barrels of oil from the vessel were said to have been destroyed.
The Police prosecutor, Adeoye Adesegun, told the court that the offences were against sections 324, 319 (9) and 443 (b) of the Criminal Code, Cap 37, Volume 1 Laws of Ondo State of Nigeria, 2006.
Adesegun urged the court to remand the suspects in prison custody pending legal advice from the Department of Public Prosecution in the state Ministry of Justice.
Enikuomehin, in a counter-affidavit, said that the charges brought against the defendants were smokescreen to hide the truth of the evil deposit of the firm at Ukpokiti oil field.
He stressed that the firm was owing the staff being prosecuted for more than two years’ salary arrears, pointing out that it was some fishermen that helped the defendants who were working on the vessel on the night that the fire outbreak happened.
Magistrate Olanipekun Mayumi granted the suspects bail in the sum of N2 million each with a surety each in like sum.
Mayumi ordered their case file to be sent to the Department of Public Prosecution for legal advice and adjourned the matter to July 13, 2022, for mention.