By Joy Odor
The Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi has sentenced ten pirates involved in the 2020 hijack of a merchant’s vessel, FV HAILUFENG II to twelve years imprisonment and a fine of Two hundred and fifty thousand Naira (N200, 000) on each count.
The suspects were charged to 3-Count charge bothering on piracy in contravention of the provisions of Section 3, 10 and 12 of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act 2019.
The defendants include Frank Abaka, Jude Eberagha, Shina Alolo, Joshua Iwiki, David Akinseye, Ahmed Toyin, Shobajo Saheed, Adeola Philip, Mathew Masi and Bright Agbedeyi.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Ayokunle Faji said piracy has been an embarrassment to the nation and has impacted the economy negatively.
The Court also stated that punishment for the act must be proportionate to the offense committed by the convicts to serve as deterrence to others.
The lead Counsel, Mr Labaran Magaji in his submission said the verdict would send a strong warning to other criminal elements that Nigeria has zero-tolerance for maritime criminals.
He added that national institutions like the Nigerian Navy, prosecuting agencies, and security agencies are ready to counter criminal activities using the judicial and lawful channels.
Meanwhile, Counsel to the sentenced persons has however indicated readiness to appeal the judgment by insisting on the innocence of his clients.
It would be recalled that the Nigerian Navy rescued 18 crew members onboard a Chinese vessel, FV HAILUFENG II from pirates attack on 15th May, 2020, subsequent upon which the convicted persons were charged before the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos.