NIGERIAN NAVY SECURES FIRST CONVICTION UNDER THE NEW ANTI-PIRACY LAW

The Federal High Court (FHC) Port Harcourt yesterday convicted 3 of the 9 accused persons who on 21 March 2020 hijacked an Equatorial Guinea flagged vessel, MV ELOBEY VI off Equatorial Guinea coast. Justice Ishaq Sani summarily convicted Binaebi Johnson, Daniel Lemmar and Ghane Gordon on Counts 1 and 2. The three were convicted under the new Anti-Piracy Act 2019 and ordered to pay a fine of N10 Million Naira each on each of the Counts.

It could be recalled that the Nigerian Navy (NN) had arrested Binaebi Johnson, Daniel Lemmar, Ghane Gordon, Hassan Hakeem, Gregory Smith, Ofem Uket, John Mark, Chidi Amadi and Eze Amadi who were suspected to be members of the kidnapping syndicate that undertook the hijacking incident.

It was reported that the kidnappers demanded for a $2 million ransom out of which $200,000 ransom was eventually paid. After their arrest by the NN, the suspects were arraigned before the FHC, Port Harcourt on 23 July 2020 on a 7 count charge to which all the accused persons pleaded not guilty. As a result, the counsel to the accused persons made an application for bail pending conclusion of the trial. Accordingly, the matter was adjourned to 10, 11 and 12 August 2020 for ruling on the bail application and commencement of the trial.

During the hearing, the prosecution filed an amended charge dated 7 August 2020. In its ruling on the bail application, the bail application was not granted because the accused persons may not make themselves available to stand trial if granted bail. Consequently, the court arraigned the accused persons on the amended charges. During the proceedings, Binaebi Johnson, Daniel Lemmar and Ghane Gordon pleaded guilty to counts 1 and 2 and not guilty to counts 3 – 5 while the remaining 6 accused persons pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. Accordingly, the prosecutor applied to the court to withdraw the charges on which the accused persons pleaded not guilty. The prayer was granted and the accused persons were discharged on counts 3 – 5.

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