The Department of State Security Services, DSS, has said that the alleged diversion of about 80 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, (petrol), belonging to the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, by the Chief Executive Officer of Capital Oil and Gas Limited, Ifeanyi Ubah, is punishable by death.
This came as the Ohanaeze youths condemned Ubah’s detention, and has called for his immediate release.
The DSS accused Ubah of shunning NNPC’s several demands to produce the product said to be worth N11 billion, in order to cause artificial scarcity of the product.
They described the action as an economic sabotage, that is punishable by death.
The agency stated this in a counter-affidavit and written submission it filed in opposition to an application by Ubah, asking a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, in Jabi, Abuja, to set aside an order for his detention for 14 days.
The order was granted to the DSS on May 10, 2017, by Justice Yusuf Halilu, to enable the agency keep the suspect in custody for 14 days, until the completion of an on-going criminal investigation against him.
Counsel to the DSS, G. Agbadua, told Justice Halilu, yesterday, that Ubah was plotting to plunge the nation into economic and social crisis, by creating artificial scarcity of petroleum product.
The counter-affidavit deposed to by a DSS Operative, Mr. Safwan Bello reads: “The respondent (Ubah) was arrested on reasonable suspicion of his involvement in the commission of a crime. He converted PMS belonging to the NNPC, kept in the custody of his tank farm, to his personal use.
“The respondent refused to return the PMS to the NNPC, after repeated demands. The PMS is worth over N11bn. The action of the respondent is affecting the distribution of petroleum products to the populace.
“The action of the respondent is sabotage of NNPC’s activities, as it relates to the distribution of petroleum products. If not for the urgent steps taken by the Federal Government, the action of the respondent would have plunged the country into widespread scarcity, with its attendant effect on the economy.
“Petroleum is the lifeblood of the Nigerian economy. NNPC is a major stakeholder in the petroleum industry in Nigeria. An attack on the Nigerian economy, is an economic threat to national security dimension.
“The Nigerian populace will suffer untold hardship, if NNPC is unable to discharge its statutory responsibilities, including distribution of petroleum products, as well as generating revenue for the country.
“The action of the respondent, if not checked, is capable of undermining the NNPC in the discharge of its duties. Investigation into the activities of the respondent is yet to be completed. A premature release of the respondent, will adversely impact on the investigation, which is nearing completion.”
In his written address, which he adopted during the Tuesday’s hearing, Agbadua argued, that: “The action of the respondent (Ubah) to sabotage the distribution of petroleum products, is a capital offence under the Petroleum Production and Distribution (Anti-Sabotage) Act, 2004.
“The act of the respondent was capable of plunging the country into chaos, as a result of scarcity of product, had the NNPC not taken a proactive step to forestall such situation.
“This clearly brings the action of the respondent under the provision of the Petroleum Production and Distribution (Anti-Sabotage) Act, 2004.
“The punishment of sabotage under this Act, attracts death penalty. It is clear that the respondent was arrested for the conversion of the property of the NNPC. It is not just ordinary stealing; it is stealing of the lifeblood of the nation.
“Oil is the major source of revenue of the Federal Government. Stealing of the revenue is a crime against the economic interest of Nigeria and therefore, falls within the purview of economic threat of national security dimension.”
Arguing Ubah’s application earlier, his Lawyer, Ifeoma Esom, prayed the court to either set aside its order of May 10, or order the Businessman’s release, on the grounds that his continued detention was unjustifiable.