Court rejects ship hijackers’ statements

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The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation on Monday failed to persuade a Federal High Court in Lagos to admit in evidence statements it claimed were voluntarily made by 10 persons accused of hijacking a vessel.

Justice Ayokunle Faji rejected the extrajudicial statements on the ground, among others, that there was a likelihood that they were obtained under threat and intimidation.

The defendants in the case are Frank Abaka, Jude Ebaragha, Shina Alolo, Joshua Iwiki, David Akinseye, Ahmed Toyin, Shobajo Saheed, Adekole Philip, Matthew Masi, and Bright Agbedeyi.

They were arraigned on July 13, 2020 for hijacking a fishing vessel.

The Federal Government’s counsel, Laraban Magaji, said the defendants committed the offence in May on international waters off Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire.

Each defendant pleaded not guilty, following which trial commenced and the prosecution called its first three witnesses.

Magaji sought to tender extrajudicial statements obtained from the defendants by the Nigerian Navy while they were in detention.

But counsel to the first, third, fourth, eighth and ninth defendants, Omoniyi Aruwayo, opposed the admission of the alleged confessional statements.

The judge said he found a clear variance between the time those statements were said to have been obtained and an accompanying videotape which raised doubts about whether they were truly obtained at the same time.

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