The trial of 10 alleged pirates continued on Monday before Justice Ayokunle Faji of the Federal High Court, Lagos, under strict social distancing rules of not more than 20 persons wearing facemasks in the courtroom.
The business of the day was for the hearing of the applications for bail of all the defendants, through their three counsels, Omoniyi Aruwayo, Joe Nwokedi and Monday Mawah.
The applications were brought pursuant to sections 158, 159, 162, 163, 164,165,167 of the administration of the Criminal Justice act 2015, and sections 35(4), 36 of the 1999 constitution (as amended).
The Counsel had argued that since investigations have been concluded, the defendants cannot tamper with the evidence, and that they are presumed innocent and have no criminal record. They also argued that the criminal information against the defendants didn’t disclose any cogent grounds sufficient to detain them, and that the alleged offences are bailable, since they carry a 15-year term, if found guilty.
In opposition, the prosecution counsel, Kehinde Bode-Ayeni filed a 14-page counter-affidavit and a written address, urging the court to refuse the bail applications and instead give the case accelerated hearing.
Justice Faji adjourned to 28th July for the ruling.
The Federal Government arraigned the alleged pirates on July the 13th 2020 on a three-count charge for the hijacking of a fishing vessel, named FV Hai Lu Feng II, belonging to Haina Fishing Company. Three out of the four prosecution witnesses also testified the same day.
The defendants, said to be resident in Nigeria, are Frank Abaka, Jude Ebaragha, Shina Alolo, Joshua Iwiki, David Akinseye, Ahmed Toyin, Shobajo Saheed, Adekole Philip, Matthew Masi and Bright Agbedeyi.
The office of the Attorney General of the Federation, which is prosecuting them, told the court that the defendants “while armed with weapons, committed an illegal act of violence against the crew onboard the ship, by putting them in fear in order to take control of the vessel.”
The AGF added that the offences were allegedly committed in May this year on the international water at Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, in violation of Section 3 of Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act 2019, and they were liable to punishment under Section 2 of the same Act.