A Federal High Court in Lagos has sentenced 10 pirates to imprisonment under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, for hijacking a Chinese fishing vessel, FV Hai Lu Feng II, in May 2020.
Justice Ayokunle Faji convicted the defendants 12 years each on four count charges, amounting to 48 years imprisonment that would run concurrently.
The convicts are also expected to pay a cumulative fine of N10 million, and they are Frank Abaka, Jude Ebaragha, Shina Alolo, Joshua Iwiki, David Akinseye, Ahmed Toyin, Shobajo Saheed, Adekole Philip, Matthew Masi, and Bright Agbedeyi.
Recall that the convicts were arraigned in July 2020 by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) for allegedly hijacking a Chinese vessel along the coast of Cote D’Ivoire. They pleaded not guilty and were remanded in the custody of the Nigerian Navy, following which trial commenced.
Delivering his judgment at the weekend, Justice Faji said the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that the pirates did hijack the vessel, FV Hai Lu Feng II, belonging to Haina fishing company.
Reacting, Bashir Jamoh, director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), said a huge lacuna has been filled in the battle against maritime crimes in Nigeria and the entire Gulf of Guinea.
“Today, the industry has made a huge leap in the battle to rid our maritime domain of illegalities. We are not going to rest 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,” he said.
At the trial, the prosecution counsel 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, Magaji further said that they violated Section 3 of SPOMO Act of 2019, punishable under Section 2 of the same Act.
The SPOMO ACT was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 which was a major stride in Nigeria’s quest in ensuring the prosecution of criminals in the Nigerian maritime domain.