Five persons accused of dealing with rice unfit for human consumption were arraigned before Justice Anulika Okeke of Federal High Court sitting in UdoUdoma Avenue Uyo, the state capital.
The five accused persons pleaded not guilty to all the 17-count charges brought against them by the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) in the case with charge number FHC/UY/70C/19.
The charges read in parts, “The five have been accused of advertising and displaying for sale, defective, unsafe and re-bagged rice thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 11 of the Consumer Protection Council Act , Cap C25, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.”
The Court granted all the accused persons bail with N5 million each and must have landed property within the jurisdiction of Court.
The Judge added that the accused must be remanded in prison custody pending when the bail conditions are met.
Speaking with newsmen after the court, the lead counsel to the Commission, Mr Babatunde Irukera, said that the commission on June 22, 2018 performed operation in Uyo where the accused were arrested for re-bagging smuggled contaminated rice for consumers consumption.
According to him, “What happened today in court was an arraignment.
“Almost a year and a half ago, we performed an operation here in uyo of people who were rebagging smuggled contaminated rice for consumers consumption. Between then and now, we have concluded investigation.
“We have been struggling for quite a while to get the judiciary process moving. They have resisted arrest repeatedly but finally, we have been able to get them to come to court.
“They have been arraigned and have taken a plea today and the trial is about to start.
“My position on this is simple, that everyone must have their day in court, we would respect their right. But the times where you can violate the right of consumers and think that the worst that could happen is your goods to be confiscated must stop.
“That can not be the only retribution. Until people are really taken through the judicial process and people suffer the appropriate penalty for their inappropriate conduct, we would not get the responsible society.
“We are grateful that this is happening. We look forward to prosecuting this case to the very end.
“This case would serve as a deterrent. I do not think that people who smuggle rice and retail it with other things have ever conceived that they could end up been remanded in prison.
“You can see that the judge has remanded these defendant, pending when they will fulfill the condition of bail. These are very vital steps on how to build a society that is fair to all.”
Also, the Lead Counsel to the defendants, Mr Christian Odoh, denied that his clients evaded appearance to the court.
Idoh said that his clients have pleaded not guilty on all the 17-count charges, they have applied for their bail and the court granted them and then adjourn for hearing.
“They are not evading appearance in court. It is only when you commit a crime that you will be on the run. Again, we don’t consider the bail sum to be excessive,” Idoh said