The Federal Government on Monday arraigned 10 men in a Federal High Court in Lagos, for allegedly hijacking a Chinese fishing vessel.
The vessel, FV Hai Lu Feng II, is said to belong to one Haina Fishing Company.
The Attorney-General of the Federation charged: Frank Abaka, Jude Ebaragha, Shina Alolo, Joshua Iwiki, David Akinseye, Ahmed Toyin, Shobajo Saheed, Adekole Philip, Matthew Masi and Bright Agbedeyi with three counts bordering on piracy.
The office of the Attorney General of the Federation, which is prosecuting them, told the court that the defendants, “while armed with weapons, committed an illegal act of violence against the crew on board FV Hai Lu Feng II, a fishing vessel belonging to Haina Fishery Company, by putting them in fear in order to take control of the vessel.”
The Prosecution Counsel, Mr Magaji Labaran, alleged that the defendants committed the offence in May, on the International waters in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, while armed with dangerous weapons.
They were alleged to have committed an illegal act of violence against the crew on board FV Hai Lu Feng II, by putting them in fear in order to take control of the vessel.
He said that the offence contravened the provisions of sections 3, 10 and 12 of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act 2019
Each of the defendants, however pleaded not guilty.
Justice Ayokunle Faji, fixed July 15, for hearing in the bail applications as well as for trial.
The court ordered that the defendants be remanded in custody of the Nigerian Navy, pending the decision on their bail application.
Recall that, the fishing trawler was taken by pirates on Thursday, May 14 in the Ivorian exclusive economic zone with 18 crew-members aboard, eight Chinese, seven Ivorians and three Ghanaians.
However, through rapid and engaged cooperation among a number of different African states and institutions, the vessel was tracked, and the Nigerian Navy was able to interdict it 140 nautical miles south of the Lagos Fairway Buoy at about 2210 local time on the night of May 16. The dramatic rescue was hugely successful, as all 18 hostages were recovered, 10 pirates were arrested, and the vessel was safely escorted into Lagos.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that, while speaking at the handing over of the criminals to the pirates, Director-General of the NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, attributed the successful operation that led to the arrest of the pirates and rescue of the ship and its crew to collaboration between the NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy.
He said the agency will continue to work with relevant security agencies in order to achieve its goal of eradicating piracy and all forms of illegality on the Nigerian waters.
Jamoh stated: “We have just witnessed the handover of pirates. This is as a result of the robust collaboration between NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy. There has been a lot of synergy between NIMASA and the Navy with regard to the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act. I also want to seize the opportunity to thank Mr. President for signing the anti-piracy law, which would facilitate sufficient prosecution of these pirates.”
Jamoh, who was represented by the agency’s Head of Legal Services, Mr. Victor Egejuru, assured that with the anti-piracy law, there was ample legal framework to prosecute pirates and other perpetrators of maritime offences in the country to bring the menace to the barest minimum.
He stressed the need for increased regional cooperation and information sharing, disclosing that the arrest of the pirates was due to a tip-off by the Beninoise Navy. Shettima warned criminal elements to stay away from Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, saying the Navy has the capability to deal with such threats.