The Federal High Court (FHC) in Port Harcourt on 10 August 2020 convicted three of the nine accused persons who on March 21 hijacked an Equatorial Guinea flagged vessel, the MV ELOBEY VI, off Equatorial Guinea coast. This is the first conviction under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, assuring the world’s shipping fleets that legal reforms will normalize the situation in the Gulf of Guinea. The convicts Binaebi Johnson, Daniel Lemmar and Ghane Gordon pleaded guilty to counts 1 and 2 and not guilty to counts 3 – 5 to the charges against them. Upon an application by the prosecution for the withdrawal of counts 3 – 5 of the charge, the Court convicted the three accused persons on counts 1 and 2 and imposed a fine of N10 Million each for each of the counts.
It will be recalled that the convicts were said to have demanded a $2 million ransom in exchange for the kidnapped crew members, of which $200,000 was eventually paid. The Director-General, of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, speaking after the conviction stated that the conviction “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 in 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.”
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