NIGERIAN HIGH COURT SENTENCES 10 PIRATES TO 120 YEARS IMPRISONMENT FOR HIJACK OF FV HAILUFENG II

Oru Leonard

In a major victory for Nigeria’s new anti-piracy law, a Nigerian Federal High Court has sentenced 10 pirates involved in the 2020 hijack of a merchant vessel FV HAILUFENG II to 12 years imprisonment each with a N250,000.00 fine on each count.

Delivering judgement today, Justice Ayokunle Faji of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi submitted that piracy has been an embarrassment to the nation and has impacted the economy negatively. Hence, Justice Faji stated that punishment for this act must be proportionate to the offence committed by the convicts to serve as deterrence to others.

In his submission, the lead prosecution counsel, Mr Labaran Magaji averred that the verdict would send a strong warning to other criminal elements that Nigeria has zero tolerance for maritime criminals and that Nigerian institutions, both Nigerian Navy, prosecuting agencies and security agencies are ready to counter criminal activities. The defence counsel has promised to appeal the judgment.

Recall that on May 14, 2020, ten persons allegedly hijacked the fishing vessel Hailufeng 11. On May 16, 2020, the Nigerian Navy carried out a rescue operation 140 nautical miles south of the Lagos Fairway Buoy. The 18 crew members were rescued, and the ten suspects arrested.

Subsequently, on 13 July 2020, 10 suspects were arraigned at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos and the court case progressed until today when then we’re sentenced.

The suspects were charged to 3 counts on piracy with the offence contravening the provisions of Section 3, 10 and 12 of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act 2019.

The defendants included Frank Abaka, Jude Ebaragha, Shina Alolo, Joshua Iwiki, David Akinseye, Ahmed Toyin, Shobajo Saheed, Adekole Philip, Matthew Masi, and Bright Agbedeyi.

This is the first ever trial of a piracy case in Nigeria, under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act of June 2019.

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