A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, issued criminal summons against eight Russians charged with unlawful importation of arms to Nigeria.
The accused: Chichkanov Vasily, Varlygin Igor, Komilov Alexander, Mishin Pavel, Korotchenko Andrey, Vorobev Mikhail, Stepan Oleksiuk and their vessel, “MV Myre Seadiver” are standing trial on a four-count charge bordering on the alleged offence.
The trial judge, Justice James issued the summons following an application by the prosecutor, Mrs Jane Igurnumbe, who informed the court of the absence of the accused.
She told the court that the accused who ought to be present in court for arraignment, were away from the country and urged the court to issue a criminal summons to compel them to be present in court.
The judge granted the prayers of the prosecutor, and ordered that a criminal summons be served on the accused.
He adjourned the case to July 9 for arraignment.
It will be recalled that 16 of the accused were first arraigned before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on February 19.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Justice Okeke had released them on bail to the Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, while the vessel was admitted to bail in a bond of 500,000 dollars to be obtained from First Bank Plc.
At the last adjourned date on June 18, the Federal Government dropped charges against Eight of the accused, adding that it will press charges against the remaining Eight.
At their arraignment, the prosecutor, Mr Ernest Ezebilo had told the court that the defendants were arrested with their vessel by Naval officers on October 18, 2012, in Lagos state.
He said that the defendants had entered the Nigerian territorial waters with their vessel, without due licence and clearance from the Nigerian Custom Service.
According to the prosecutor, the accused had also refused to declare the content of the vessel contrary to the provisions of the Customs and Excise Management Act, 2002.
He said that when the vessel was arrested and opened by the Naval officers, a cache of firearms and ammunitions was discovered in it.
He said the alleged offences contravened the provisions of section 27 of the Firearms Act, Cap F28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, as well as the provisions of the Miscellanous Offence Act, Cap M17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The offence attracts a penalty of not less than 10 years upon conviction.