By Davies Iheamnachor – Port Harcourt
Three foreign nationals and six Nigerians, who are staff members of Pilgrim Africa Limited, have been ordered to be remanded by a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt for allegedly aiding and abetting kidnapping, sea piracy and concealing terrorism.
The Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder had arrested the nine suspects after they had allegedly paid the sum of $200,000, to pirates who had kidnapped some staff members of the said company.
The suspects, who are standing trial on three counts preferred against them by the Federal Government bothering on conspiracy and terrorism, were reported to have transported the kidnap victims to Calabar in Cross River State after they were freed by their abductors.
The charges in FHC/PH/62C/2020 read in part: “That you, Binaebi Johnson, Daniel Lemmer, Ghane Gordon, and Pilgrim Africa Limited, all male, adult and of Pilgrim Africa Limited, Port Harcourt, Rivers State sometime within May 2020 at Port Harcourt, Rivers State did conspire amongst yourselves to facilitate the payment of ransom of $200,000 .00 for the release of the hostages namely: Mr Abaamrane Hamid, Mr. Chalabi Abdelaziz, Mr. Santos Ndong to Pirates who attacked MV ELOBEY VI, an Equatorial Guinea flagged Vessel off Equatorial Guinea Coast and held the crew members hostage and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 17 (1) of Terrorism Prevention (Amendment) Act 2013.”
However, the nine suspects pleaded not guilty to all the charges levelled against them by the government.
The prosecuting counsel, Labaram Magaji, relying on section 216 of the Administration of Criminal Justice 2015, prayed the court to strike out the name of the 10th defendant, Pilgrim Africa Limited.
Magaji requested the court to commence the trial and remand the suspects in the Correctional Centre pending the determination of the matter or the bail application filed by the respective defendants.
Meanwhile, the defense counsel, Abimbola Akeredolu (SAN), requested the court to entertain the bail application of the defendants which she said was ripe for hearing, praying the court for an order admitting all the applicants on bail on liberal ground and favourable terms.
Akeredolu told the court that the applicants would be available in court till the matter is concluded, adding that the suspects are not in flight risk.
Meanwhile, the trial judge, Mohammed Sani, who promised speedy hearing of the matter, adjourned the matter till the 10th, 11th, and 12th of August for ruling on bail application and commencement of the hearing.
Sani remanded the defendants in the Port Harcourt the Correctional Centre, ordering officials of the centre to ensure that all Covid-19 precautionary protocol are maintained in the admission.