By Chiemelie Ezeobi
Four Malaysian-bound serial stowaways who were recently arrested and charged to court by the maritime component of the Nigerian Police, have been convicted and sent to prison, as well as community service, for conspiracy and boarding illegally.
The stowaways who were identified as 24-year-old Ahmed Azeez, 33-year-old Tunde Yagba, 33-year-old Ajose Kehinde and 25-year-old Adewale Sunday, were convicted by the court and given different sentences ranging from imprisonment to community service.
While the duo of Azeez and Sunday were sentenced to six weeks community service each for being first time offenders, Tunde and Kehinde were both sentenced to six months imprisonment each without an option of fine for being habitual offenders.
Speaking with THISDAY, the Police Public Relations Officer of the Maritime Police Command, Sadik Olatunde, said they were convicted on two count charges for illegally stowing away on the MV Maesrk Casablanca cargo vessel.
He said: “The stowaways arrested and paraded on May 31, 2016 by the Assistant Inspector General of Police in- charge-of Maritime Police Command, Musa Katsina, have all been convicted.
“They were charged on a two-count charge of conspiracy and entering a ship without a ticket. This offences are contrary to and punishable under section 398 and 410 Laws of Lagos State of Nigeria.
“They all pleaded guilty to the two charges. While the duo of Ahmed Azeez and Adewale Sunday were sentenced to six weeks community services each for being first time offenders, Prince Yagba Tunde and Ajose Kehinde were both sentenced to six months imprisonment each without an option of fine being habitual offenders.
“The AIG maritime command wishes to commend the judiciary for such a speedy trial as it would serve as a deterrent to others.”
The suspects were all arrested following a tip off from the Amphibious Ambush Squad of the Marine Command led by the Officer-in-charge of Marine Command, Ben Ogungbure, the police acting on the directive of the AIG had tracked their movement.
The tracking paid off as the suspects were arrested and during preliminary interrogation, it was discovered that the suspects have in the past traveled to Brazil, South Africa and some even Canada before they were deported.
On how they were arrested Katsina said,
“The suspects, all indigenes of Snake Island Village behind Tincan Island Port, Lagos, conspired with an intent to commit felony. They stole a canoe under the cover of darkness and paddled to a Malaysian-bound cargo ship MV Maersk Casablanca.
“The vessel berthed at Tincan Island Port and they trespassed into the vessel. They dived into the water and sneaked through the propeller into the manhole, where they hid themselves in a small compartment.
“It happened that 23 hours after the ship had sailed out, my intelligence group from the Amphibious Ambush Squad (AAS) from alerted me of the presence of some strange elements in the vessel.
“We quickly alerted our operatives at Onne Port, in collaboration with the men of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) who played a commendable role and they were found and arrested.”
Upon discovery that the route was notorious for such stowaways and other criminalities, Katsina said they will redesign the methodology of their operation by seating with the Nigerian Navy, NIS and other sister agencies that cover the maritime environment.