The Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Nigeria has convicted three persons accused of involvement in the hijack of an Equatorial Guinean flagged vessel named, MV ELOBEY VI, off Equatorial Guinea’s coast on March 21.
Justice Mohammed Sani convicted Binaebi Johnson, Daniel Lemmar and Ghane Gordon and they were ordered to pay a fine of N20 million each under the new Antipiracy Act 2019.
The Nigerian Navy had arrested nine persons, namely, 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. They were said to have demanded a $2 million ransom out of which $200,000 was eventually paid.
During the proceedings in the court on August 10, Binaebi Johnson, Daniel Lemmar and Ghane Gordon pleaded guilty on two counts and not guilty on three counts while the remaining accused persons pleaded not guilty to all the charges against them.
Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, described the conviction as a signal that Nigeria is on the right path in the war against piracy and other crimes on the nation’s waterways.
Jamoh said NIMASA as an interested party will continue to work closely with other agencies of the Nigerian government, the international community, and other stakeholders to achieve improved security in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Director-General stated, “This will serve as a deterrent to other criminal elements who are still engaged in the nefarious activities on our waterways. On our part as an agency, we will not relent on our efforts to ensure a safe and secure maritime domain in line with our mandate.
“The Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Crimes (SPOMO) Act 2019 has come to stay and it is victory for Nigeria as a whole as we are determined more than ever before to take our rightful place in the comity of maritime nations.”
The prosecution counsel, Labaran Magaji, who spoke to newsmen outside the court, said the judgement was a landmark victory for the antipiracy law. The conviction is the first since the signing into law of the SPOMO Act in June last year by President Muhammadu Buhari.