An appeal filed by 14 foreign nationals contesting their conviction for oil theft has been dismissed by Nigeria’s Court of Appeal.
According to the report on CAJ News Africa, a vessel carrying the convicts who hail from Japan, Phillipines, Russia and Ukraine was intercepted by officers from the Nigerian Navy. The vessel was loaded with crude oil estimated at 1,738 tonnes in 2015.
They all pleaded guilty to the charges leveled against them.
The Federal High Court in Nigeria’s commercial city of Lagos sentenced 11 out of the convicted suspects to two years imprisonment each, with an option of N5 million ($14,000) fine.
Three of the foreign nationals jumped bail and absconded; they were convicted and sentenced in absentia to five years imprisonment without an option of fine.
Their vessel was confiscated in respect to a court order.
Despite efforts by the accused to have the appellate court set aside the judgment, the Court of Appeal in a judgment read by Justice Garuba Haruna upheld the ruling of the lower court convicting them.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer.
In 2015, the petroleum sector accounted for approximately 51 percent of the federal government’s income and more than 90 percent of export earnings. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce data published in February 2017, the sector accounted for between 10-12 percent of Nigeria’s GDP.
Oil theft is rampant in Nigeria costing the country’s treasury an estimated $1 billion on a monthly basis.