A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has sentenced ten (10) pirates to a total of 48 years each in prison under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences, SPOMO ACT regime, for hijacking a Chinese fishing vessel, FV Hai Lu Feng II, in May 2020.
In a statement, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said Justice Ayokunle Faji convicted the defendants on all four counts as charged each to 12 years behind bars. The 48 years imprisonment is however to run concurrently.
Besides each of the convicts spending 12 years behind bars, the judge also asked them to pay a cumulative fine of N10 million.
The convicts, who reside in Nigeria, are Frank Abaka, Jude Ebaragha, Shina Alolo, Joshua Iwiki, David Akinseye, Ahmed Toyin, Shobajo Saheed, Adekole Philip, Matthew Masi, and Bright Agbedeyi. They were arraigned in July 2020 by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) for allegedly hijacking the Chinese vessel in international waters off the coast of Cote D’Ivoire.
They all initially pleaded not guilty and were remanded in the custody of the Nigerian Navy, following which trial commenced. In his judgment, Justice Faji said the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt that the pirates did hijack the vessel, FV Hai Lu Feng II, belonging to Haina fishing company.
Reacting to the landmark judgement, Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said history has been made adding that a huge lacuna has been filled in the battle against maritime crimes in Nigeria and the entire Gulf of Guinea.
In his words; “today history has been made, our industry has made a huge leap in the battle to rid our maritime domain of illegalities. We are not going to rest on our oars as we now have a tested legal instrument like the SPOMO Act which is a major tool in Nigeria’s quest to end Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea”
“In the course of the trial, the government 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 belonging to Haina Fishing Company by putting them in fear in order to take control of the vessel.” Dr. Jamoh added.
The SPOMO ACT signed into Law by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 has been adjudged a major stride in Nigeria’s quest in ensuring prosecution of criminals in the Nigerian maritime domain.