BY OLUGBENGA SOYELE, Lagos
Justice Hadiza Rabiu-Shagari of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday remanded 29 citizens of Benin Republic in prison custody for allegedly dealing in petroleum products in Nigeria, without licence.
Justice Rabiu-Shagari ordered that the foreigners be kept in prison after they were arraigned on two separate charges of one count each by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The first charge was preferred against 21 of the accused persons: Blessing David, Attau Abel, Sunday Odepo, Francis Agba, Peter Honfo, Batoromi Digi, Noel Megbe, Jerome Ilewagbemi, Kankor Bidemi, Amuse Awatu, and Isaac Torwuloten.
Others are, Martins Aviwe, Kojo Cheji, Edumor Rofo, Koko Rofor, Jimoh Megba, Jockten Tomatu, Ado Leon, James Oke, Dominic Nwagu, and Ado Rafino.
Those listed on the second charge are: Honffo Djidenu, Hounssa Bergakola, Atungbe Paul, Honffo Eminu, Hounssa Achillit, Honffo DJoellit, Isaac Friday, and Oluwashina Ogbugure.
They all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Before their arraignment, when Justice Rabiu-Shagari asked if the foreigners understood the English language, she was informed that save for the female, Blessing David all others understood only Egun language.
Justice Rabiu-Shagari then ordered that the charge be read over to them in the language they understand.
The charge was then read to the accused persons, interpreted and explained to them in Egun language.
After their pleas were taken, the defence lawyer, Abdulmalik Ibrahim urged the court to give a short date for their bail application to be heard.
He added that they have been in detention for almost two months.
This position was however not opposed by the prosecutor, Zainab Ettu.
The court directed the prosecution to produce an independent Nigeria based interpreter on the next adjourned date, so as to ensure that the court is not mislead with the interpretation.
The judge then adjourned the case until November 15 for hearing of their bail application.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have unlawfully dealt in petroleum products in Nigeria without appropriate licence.
The offence according to the anti-graft agency contravenes the provisions of sections 1(19)(a) of the Miscellaneous offences Act, Cap M17 Laws of the Federation 2004.