In what appears to be the test case for the new anti-piracy law, the Nigerian government on Monday arraigned 10 suspected pirates in Federal High Court in Lagos, the nation’s economic hub, for allegedly hijacking a Chinese fishing vessel.
The vessel, FV Hai Lu Feng II, is said to belong to the Haina Fishing Company. The government charged the suspects with three counts on piracy.
Prosecutor Magaji Labaran alleged that the defendants committed the offence in May, on the International waters in Abidjan, Cote D’lvoire, while armed with dangerous weapons.
They were alleged to have committed an illegal act of violence against the crew on board FV Hai Lu Feng II, by putting them in fear in order to take control of the vessel.
He said the offence contravened the provisions of sections 3, 10 and 12 of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act 2019.
Each of the defendants, however, pleaded not guilty. Justice Ayokunle Faji, fixed July 15, for hearing in the bail applications as well as for trial. The court ordered that the defendants be remanded in custody of the Nigerian Navy, pending the decision on their bail application.
The ship’s crew, including Chinese, Ghanaians, and Ivorians, was attacked by pirates off the coast of Cote d’lvoire on May 15. They were rescued unhurt by the Nigerian military.
A number of ships have been attacked by pirates within the Gulf of Guinea in recent years. The criminal groups have shifted from stealing cargo to holding crew members for ransom