Ten pirates have been handed a twelve-year jail sentence each for hijacking a Chinese fishing vessel, FV Hai Lu Feng II, in May 2020.
The convicts said to be residents in Nigeria were identified as Frank Abaka, Jude Ebaragha, Shina Alolo, Joshua Iwiki, David Akinseye, Ahmed Toyin, Shobajo Saheed, Adekole Philip, Matthew Masi, and Bright Agbedeyi.
They pleaded “not guilty” after being arraigned on a four-count charge bordering on the hijacking of the vessel in international waters off the coast of Cote D’Ivoire.
The convicts who were first arraigned by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) on July 13, 2020, were accused of “committing 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 while armed with weapons”.
The government which said their action violated Section 3 of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act, 2019, punishable under Section 2 of the same Act, urged the court to use the case to send a strong message to pirates that Nigeria would not condone such criminal activities which had huge implications for the country.
Ruling on the case, Justice Ayokunle Faji said their actions affect the well-being of all Nigerians also ordered each pirate to pay a fine of N1 million each.
“I agree with the prosecution counsel, Labaran Magaji that the prosecution has proved the essential ingredients of the offence committed by each of the defendants; the defendants conspired to commit the illegal act.
“All the defendants acted in hijacking the ship to achieve their common goal.
“Consequently I find each of the defendants guilty as charged on all the counts.
“Each defendant is hereby sentenced to 12 years imprisonment.
“In addition, the defendants should pay a fine of N1 million 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.”