By: Okosun Dennis
The efforts of men of the Nigerian Navy paid off in their campaign to stamp out the notoriety of pirates on the sea as three pirates arrested for hijacking an Equatorial Guinea flagged vessel, MV ELOBEY VI have been convicted.
The Federal High Court (FHC) sitting in Port Harcourt had on Monday convicted three of the nine accused persons for hijacking the ship on the 21st March, 2020 off Equatorial Guinea Coast.
Those convicted by Justice Ishaq Sani were Binaebi Johnson, Daniel Lemmar and Ghane Gordon on Counts 1 and 2 brought against them under the new Anti-Piracy Act 2019 and were ordered to pay a fine of N10 million naira each on each of the Counts.
In a statement on Tuesday by the Director of Information (DINFO), Commodore Suleiman Dahun in Abuja disclosed that during the hearing, the prosecution had filed an amended charge dated 7 August 2020.
He said, “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 which Binaebi Johnson, Daniel Lemmar and Ghane Gordon pleaded guilty to counts 1 and 2 and not guilty to counts 3, 4 and 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, 4 and 5.”
It was also learnt that “After their arrest by the Nigerian Navy, the suspects were arraigned before the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt on the 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.
It would 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.
In the process, the kidnappers demanded for a $2 million ransom out of which $200,000 ransom was eventually paid to them.