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Government begins trial of suspected pirates

The trial of suspected pirates who were caught with arms and ammunition resumed on Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

Illicit arms importation
The illegally imported firearms on display

They were arrested on a vessel by men of the Nigerian Navy for alleged piracy and dealing in petroleum products without authorisation.

The defendants were accused of violating laws on money laundering and firearms prohibition.

The defendants include the vessel, MT Dejikun, Umarama Ovuiro, Adesola Peter, Collins Harrison, Paul Adeyemi, Adedeji Joshua, Samuel Oluwafemi and Abdulrahman Kabir (also known as Tunde).

According to the prosecution, the defendants, on February 19 last year at the Nigerian coast, conspired to deal in petroleum products from the vessel without lawful authority.

The complaint – Federal Republic of Nigeria – said the defendants, “while committing piracy, did transfer petroleum products from the MT Maximus vessel”.

The prosecution said the suspects were in unlawful possession of an AK49 rifle numbered 9973, as well as an AK56 rifle, numbered 15515.

The accused person were also caught with a single barrel Magnum, numbered 7080; 161 rounds of live 7.62mm ammunition, six empty AK47 cartridges and six cartridges.

The alleged offence violates Sections 3 and 8 and punishable under Section 27 (1) (a) of the Firearms Act of 2004.

The prosecution said the offence of conspiracy, dealing in petroleum products without authority and transferring it to another vessel violate sections 1 (17), 3 (6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act 2004 and Section 15 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.

The defendants pleaded not guilty and were remanded in prison custody.

At their trial yesterday, prosecuting counsel Mrs E. S. Osiade, a Senior State Counsel at the Federal Ministry of Justice, sought to tender statements made by the defendants after their arrest.

But the defence counsel objected on the basis that the statements were not made voluntarily.

Counsel for Kabir, Mr Jerry Omoregi, said: “My client informed me that the statement is a product of great torture which spanned over a period of two weeks while he was in detention cell of Nigerian Navy Apapa.”

Counsel for Ovuiro, Peter, Harrison, Joshua and Olawufemi, Mr N. C. Onyejiaka, also claimed his clients were forced to made their statements.

“The original statements which they made voluntarily are not here,” he said.

Following the defendants’ claim, Justice Muslim Hassan ordered a trial within trial to determine the statements’ voluntariness.

But, the Navy claimed that the statements were obtained voluntarily after the defendants were duly cautioned.

Testifying in the trial within trial, a Lieutenant Commander, O. J. Adeyemi, said he took the statements and that none of the defendants was forced to write the statements.

“I even bought food and drinks for two of the defendants at different times when they complained they were hungry. They wrote their statements willingly and not under duress,” he said.

Justice Hassan adjourned until November 6 and 7 for continuation of trial within trial.

By Chinyere Obia

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