Three expatriates and six Nigerians have been remanded in prison by a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Thursday for allegedly aiding and abetting terrorism, kidnapping and possession of illegal firearms.
The men were identified as Bimaebi Johnson, Daniel Lemmer, Ghane Gordon, Hassan Hakeem, Gregory Smith, Ofem Uket, John Mark, Chidi Amadi and Eze Amadi.
They were arrested in May 2020 by the Nigerian Navy in Port Harcourt.
Three of them; Johnson, Lemmer and Gordon, in connivance with a company, Pilgrim Africa Limited, allegedly conspired to facilitate the payment of $200,000 ransom to secure the release of three crew members identified as Abaamrane Hamid, Chalabi Abdelaziz and Sanfos Ndong, held hostage by pirates who attacked their Equatorial Guinea flagged vessel, MV ELOBEY VI, off Equatorial Guinea Coast.
The defendants, who appeared before Justice Isaq Sani, pleaded not guilty to all seven counts preferred against them bordering on terrorism, kidnapping and illegal possession of firearms.The prosecuting counsel from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Labaran Magaji, urged the court to remand them in custody pending the determination of their bail.
However, the defence counsel, Abimbola Akeredolu (SAN), prayed the court to hear the bail application immediately and grant them bail in liberal and minimal terms.Akeredolu told the court that the defendants’ only crime was that they conveyed the kidnapped crew members after they were released to their embassy in Calabar.
Justice Isaq Sani, after considering both arguments, remanded the defendants in the Nigerian Correctional Service facility in Port Harcourt, pending the ruling on the bail application on August 10, 2020, adding that officials of the Nigerian Correctional Service handling the accused persons should adhere to physical distancing protocols due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The judge, in compliance with the directive of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court who had issued a fiat for an accelerated hearing of the matter, adjourned till August 10,11 and 12 for continuation of hearing.