Shipping company arraigned for illegal arms importation

The Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday heard how a foreign flagged vessel with a cache of arms and ammunition entered Nigeria without permit.

A shipping company, Blueseas Maritime Services Nigeria Limited and its employee, Chinenye Stanley, were arraigned for allegedly aiding the vessel’s “illegal” entry into Nigeria.

They were re-arraigned on an amended three-count charge bordering on obtaining money by false pretence and facilitating the unlawful entry of a foreign-flagged ship, MV Myre Seadiver, into the country.

Stanley pleaded not guilty to the charge.

During the trial, a naval officer, Vincent Okechukwu, led in evidence by the prosecutor, Mrs Hajara Yusuf, said the foreign vessel was arrested on October 18, 2012.

According to him, he and other officers were on patrol when they sighted the ship and reported to his Commander, simply identified as Njoku, at the NNS Beecroft.

The witness said the vessel was sighted at their base, using an R. Maritime Awareness Capability (RMAC) device.

He said it was found to be within the Nigerian waters at Latitude 06 degree 20920 North and Longitude 003 degree 27402 East.

Okechukwu said the Commander ordered its arrest, since no information was received about the entry of any vessel, either from the Nigerian Custom Service (NCS), the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) or the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).

According to the witness, following concerted efforts from his crew, the vessel and the foreigners on board were arrested and taken to the base of the NNS Beecroft.

Okechukwu told the court that a cache of arms and ammunition was discovered in the vessel, adding that he took their inventory.

The witness added that the police was invited and the foreigners handed over to them, after he made a statement.

The inventory and the statement were tendered before the court.

In the charge, the accused were alleged to have collected about $42,000 from a Moral Security Group, owners of the foreign vessel, under false pretence of helping them secure a permit for the entrance of their vessel into the country.

It was alleged that the accused never secured the requisite permit from the appropriate authority as represented, but instead, aided and facilitated illegal entrance of the vessel.

The offence is said to have contravened the provisions of sections 1, 1(2) of the Advanced Fee Fraud Actn Cap A6, Laws of the Federation, 2004.

The trial continues on June 10.

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