Following the dismissal of the criminal suit filed against three of its staff, a shipping agency, Oilways Logistics and Energy Limited has narrated how the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) implicated and prosecuted its innocent staff on drug-related offences.
It would be recalled that Oilways Logistics and Energy Limited and three staff, Tobi Ojo, Kunle Animashaun, and Shedrack, were prosecuted by the NDLEA before Justice Ayokunle Faji of a Lagos Federal High Court on alleged charges of conspiracy and unlawful importation of 43.110 kilograms of cocaine, in a charge marked FHC/L/100C/2021.
Shedrack was earlier discharged alongside the Indians who were the detained crew members of the vessel based on the “No case submission filed by the counsels while the two other men were however acquitted and discharged by the court on July 21, 2023, for lack of proof to link them to the charges.
In acquitting and discharging the two men alongside Mr. Terry Omozusi who is a member of staff of BUA sugar refinery and Mr. Peter Osazuwa who is a dock worker, Justice Faji held that the NDLEA failed to prosecute the main culprit, the receiver/consignee of the cargo whose name was mentioned severally during the trial and several documents tendered before the judge confirmed but was deliberately ignored by the agency and was not charged.
And that the agency failed to prove its case against all the defendants before the court beyond a reasonable doubt.
Justice Faji consequently, dismissed the charges against the four men.
Before the dismissal of the case, Justice Faji had earlier discharged and acquitted seven Indian nationals also linked to the alleged crime, for lack of diligent prosecution.
The court freed the Indians, after upholding their no-case submissions filed by their lawyers.
However, following the acquittal and discharge of the two men and dismissal of the charges against them, their employer, Oilways Logistics & Energy Limited, through its operation manager, Kunle Animashaun, in a statement narrated how they were linked, implicated, and prosecuted for the drug smuggling allegation.
Oilways Logistics and Energy Limited in its statement captioned “RE: M/V SPAR Scorpio At Josepdam Terminal TCIP LAGOS”, stated that the firm was the Agent of the vessel as appointed by the Consignee/Receiver, BUA Refinery.
“The vessel was laden with 42,000mt of raw sugar and berthed at Josepdam Terminal, Tin Can Island Port on January 29th, 2021.
“On Monday, the 8th day of February 2021 at about 11:00 am our team supervising the discharge of the cargo (raw sugar)was informed that two bags fell off the crane of the vessel during the discharge operation being carried out by the crane operator. According to the crane operator who was among the witnesses presented by the prosecutor in court, in his testimony, he testified before the court that he had neither met nor had any relationship with the shipping agent or any of its members of staff,” Oilways Logistics and Energy Limited said.
“However, he testified that when he observed that he grabbed something strange with the crane, he put a call through Mr. Opara who was the receiver’s representative on board but didn’t pick up his call before he decided to drop the bags on the hopper which was observed by the security who alerted the management.
Oilways Logistics and Energy Limited added “Upon the receipt of the information, our operations manager, in person of Mr. Kunle Animashaun, who at the material time wasn’t even in the terminal vicinity quickly went to the terminal and proceeded to board the vessel for proper briefing and immediately reported to the CEO, Mr. Franklyn P. Godwin.
“The terminal manager convened a meeting between the General Manager of the Supply Chain of BUA, the Operations Manager of BUA, and the Terminal’s PFSO and properly briefed all present about the incident and they all agreed to invite the port security agencies including NDLEA for proper verification of the content before going forward. The NDLEA officials arrived about an hour later, took possession of the bags from the terminal, and confirmed them to be 40 packs containing powder substance suspected to be cocaine but not yet ascertained with a view of taking it to their office for proper analysis,” Oilways Logistics and Energy Limited said.
“The bags were evacuated from the terminal to their office in their vehicle. As the representative of the shipping agent, Kunle Animashaun voluntarily requested to accompany the NDLEA Operators to their office as a witness only. On getting to their Tin Can, Apapa office, he met the Terminal Manager, the PFSO, and Mr. Opara, who is a representative of BUA on board the vessel. The items were reconfirmed and weighed to be 43.110 kilograms of cocaine by their field test device. They were all asked to write statements on the matter which we did and the Terminal Manager and the PFSO were released while Opara and our operations manager were now detained.
Oilways Logistics and Energy Limited explained that, “They were handcuffed and taken to their Ikoyi office and were now being subjected to all kinds of psychological torture accusing them of knowing the substance despite explaining and clearly stating that our core duties as being the agent of the vessel were purely that of a disport Agent whose duties, amongst others is just the processing of NPA provisional bills, Terminal Charges, NIMASA Provisional bills, Customs PAR and then forwarded to the importer being BUA Sugar Refinery for payment as we process the vessel’s Husbandry activities which involve berthing the vessel, boarding, and clearing of the vessel with the various government agencies attached to the port, and other operational oversight, obtaining clearance from customs after cargo discharge operation had been completed and sailing of the vessel.
“The following morning they were asked to write a series of statements and sign evidence reports that they, Mr. Animashaun, and Opara were apprehended at the scene of the incident which of course, wasn’t true,” Oilways Logistics and Energy Limited claimed.
“They were then locked up in a non-ventilated cell where they were further dehumanized by not providing them with food, water, electricity, or any source of light which later caused damage to the sight of Mr. Kunle Animashaun as were made to pass the night on a bare floor and their families, prevented from seeing them except on Tuesdays and Thursdays for just about 2hrs as were held in that same situation for 18days.
“Despite the efforts of our company’s lawyer applying for his bail. The bail conditions were met after a week in detention, however, they refused to grant him bail intended to keep them in detention pending the conclusion of their investigation. They were only released when the lawyer had to petition the Chairman of the NDLEA on Friday 26th February 2021.
“On July 2021, the Shipping Agency, Oilways Logistics & Energy Ltd and 3 of its staff members, Mr. Kunle Animashaun, Mr. Tobi Ojo, and Mr. Shedrack Yitzak, the dock worker, Mr. Peter Osazuwa, Mr. Terry Omozusi and seven of the vessel’s crew members were arraigned in court and ironically, Mr. Opara, the representative of BUA on board the vessel who was initially detained and even the Importing Company BUA Sugar refinery was not on the charge sheet. It is surprising that NDLEA should take the Shipping Agent to court, charged the Agents on two counts charge for importation and conspiracy, and the importer, duly identified with document evidence not even mentioned on the charge sheet.
“At this point, we believe that NDLEA knows more than it told the court in the course of the trial that lasted over two years.”