A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos yesterday sentenced 10 Nigerian pirates to seven years imprisonment each for hijacking a Chinese fishing vessel.
Jailed were Frank Abaka, Jude Ebaragha, Shina Alolo, Joshua Iwiki, David Akinseye, Ahmed Toyin, Shobajo Saheed, Adekole Philip, Matthew Masi and Bright Agbedeyi.
The court found them guilty of seizing FV Hai Lu Feng II, off Cote D’Ivoire in May 2020.
Justice Ayokunle Faji also ordered each of the pirates to pay a fine of N1million.
They were convicted on all four counts preferred against them.
They were arraigned by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) on July 13, 2020 on a four-count charge bordering on hijacking of the vessel in international waters off the coast of Cote D’Ivoire.
They pleaded not guilty, and were remanded in the custody of the Nigerian Navy, following which the trial commenced.
Delivering judgment yesterday, Justice Faji said the prosecution proved its case beyond reasonable doubt that the pirates did hijack the vessel belonging to Haina Fishing Company.
The judge said the prosecution counsel, Labaran Morgaji, had proved the essential ingredients of the offence committed by each of the defendants.
The judge said: “All the defendants acted in hijacking the ship to achieve their common goal.
“Consequently I find each of the defendants guilty as charged in all the counts.
“Each defendant is hereby sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.
“In addition, the defendants should pay a fine of N1million each.
“The offence committed by the defendants affects the wellbeing of Nigerians and our image in the Diaspora.
“The naira sum, dollars and various currencies recovered from the defendants by the Nigerian Navy are hereby forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.”
The defendants were arrested in May this year by the Nigerian Navy, which handed them over to the government.
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.”
Prosecution counsel Laraban Magaji said they violated Section 3 of Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act, 2019, punishable under Section 2 of the same Act.