LAGOS (AFP) – Nigeria on Tuesday charged 15 Russian sailors detained since October with illegally bringing weapons into the nation.
The crew of the MV Myre Seadiver were temporarily denied bail by Lagos High Court Judge Okechukwu Okeke, with a final ruling on the bail application set for February 25.
The ship was seized on October 19 off the coast of Lagos by a naval patrol which also detained its 15 crew members.
Weapons found on the vessel included 14 AK-47 rifles with 3,643 rounds of ammunition as well as 22 Benelli MR1 rifles with 4,955 rounds of ammunition.
The intended destination or planned use of the arms was not clear.
In December, Russia’s foreign ministry said it had reached a deal to secure the release of the sailors, explaining that Nigeria had agreed to drop the case to preserve cordial relations between the two nations.
That pact, if it ever existed, appears to have been sidelined.
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and top oil producer, where illegal weapons have fuelled violence in several regions.
The vessel was said to have left the Cook Islands in the South Pacific and arrived in Nigeria’s waters without permission.
It reportedly belonged to the Moscow-based Moran Group and was flying a Dutch island flag at the time of its seizure.