“How Vessel Charterer Ordered Captain To Lock, Seal Room Where 24kg Of Cocaine Was Found” -NDLEA Witness

Justice Ayokunle Faji of a Lagos Federal High Court, today, was told how the Captain of MV Cooper, the vessel allegedly used in smuggling 24 Kilogrames of Cocaine into the country, told the investigating Narcotic Officers  and members of his team that it was the vessel’s Charterers, Sea Pioneer Limited, that instructed the crew to lock and seal the the crane house where the cocaine was kept and found.

Mr Ehilebo Erale Sunday made revelation, today while being led in evidence before Justice Faji by the prosecutor, Mr Abu Ibrahim, during the trial of MV Cooper, Sea Pioneer Limited and 10 others, who are being tried for illegal importation of cocaine, hid inside a ship that brought in bulk sugar for BUA, a Nigerian company that specialises in the production of cement, sugar and other consumables. 

Other defendants who are nationals of  Philippine, Ukraine and Estonia are  Krasnoperov Oleksii; Enesa Julio (Jnr) Pedrogosa; Nonan Ulysses Doria; Torino Jhundhel Adang; Alado Elpe De Pedro; Empedrado Ryan De Jesus; Liquit Niel Morris Auxtero; Akulov Oleg; Frugalidad Francis Cabaluna and Duran Nielstephen Dias.

In his evidence before the court today, the prosecution witness, Ohilebo Erale Sunday, an Investigation Officer, told the court that the NDLEA received an intelligence from its foreign partners on July 2, 2023, that a ship coming from Sao Polo,  Brazil was carrying hard drug.

Ohilebo said their Commander consequently constituted a team for the operation and that the team lay siege at Josepdam Port in Lagos from that July 2, until the ship arrival on July 5, 2023 when NDLEA operatives boarded the ship and found the cocaine inside the ship.

He added that on boarding the ship, himself and other operatives searched everywhere until they got to the second crane house which was under lock and sealed. Adding that the team then ask the Ship Master to bring the key and open the room and that by the time the room was opened, the drug was discovered inside a black back in the presence of the ship captain and other crew members.

The witness further told the court that during investigation, the Captain printed out a message and gave it to them (Investigator) and also told them verbally that it was the Chatterer, Sea Pioneer Limited, that instructed the crew to lock the crane house and seal it 

At this stage, the prosecutor sought for adjournment to enable him file the said  telex message in the interest of justice, a request that was not opposed by the defense counsel led by Mr. Olatunde Adejuyigbe and Babajide Koku both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs).

Meanwhile, Justice Ayokunle Faji has adjourned the matter till February 20 and 21, 2024 for continuation of trial.

The prosecutor, Mr. Ibrahim, had on Monday, while re-arraigning all the defendants informed the court that his agency has served the charge on the vessel charterers, Sea Pioneer Limited, based in the United Kingdom, as directed by the court. Adding that the affidavit of service to show that the charterers have been served with the charge, has been filed.

He also told the court he has been served with the Charterers’ application that ‘no guilty plea’, be recorded for it.

The position which was confirmed by the Vessel Charterers’ lawyer, Mr. Babajide Koku (SAN), who also informed the court that his client’s application was premised on section 378 of the administration of Criminals Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.

After the submissions made by the prosecutor and the defendants’ lawyer, Justice Faji ordered that the amended charge be read to the defendants for their plea to be taken.

Charges against the defendants read; “that you, the Owners Of Mv Cooper Island; MV Cooper Island; Sea Pioneer Ltd being the charterers of The MV Cooper Island; Krasnoperov Oleksii, being the Captain of the Vessel, Mv Cooper Island Sea Pioneer Ltd, being the charterers of the MV Cooper Island and Enesa Julio (Jnr) Pedrogosa; Nonan Ulysses Doria; Torino Jhundhel Adang; Alado Elpe De Pedro; Empedrado Ryan De Jesus; Liquit Niel Morris Auxtero; Akulov Oleg; Frugalidad Francis Cabaluna and Duran Nielstephen Dias,  being crew members of the MV Cooper Land, on or about 6 July 2023 conspired to transport 24 kilograms of Cocaine, a Narcotic Drug, from the port of Santos, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil to JOSEPDAM Port, a berthing Point under Tin Can Island Port, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 14 (b) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. 

“That you The Owners Of Mv Cooper Island; Mv Cooper Island, Sea Pioneer Ltd being the charterers of The MV Cooper Island, Krasnoperov Oleksii, being the Captain of the Vessel, Mv Cooper Island Sea Pioneer Ltd, being the charterers of the MV Cooper Island and Enesa Julio (Jnr) Pedrogosa; Nonan Ulysses Doria; Torino Jhundhel Adang; Alado Elpe De Pedro; Empedrado Ryan De Jesus; Liquit Niel Morris Auxtero; Akulov Oleg; Frugalidad Francis Cabaluna and Duran Nielstephen Diasbeing crew members of the Vessel, MV Cooper Island on or about 6 July 2023 without lawful authority imported 24 kilograms of Cocaine, a Narcotic Drug, from the port of Santos, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil to Josepdam Port, a berthing Point under Tin Can Island Port, within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 20 (1)(a) and punishable under section 20 (2) (a) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. 

“That you the Owners Of Mv Cooper Island; MV Cooper Island; Sea Pioneer Ltd being the charterers of The MV Cooper Island, Krasnoperov Oleksii, being the Captain of the Vessel, Mv Cooper Island Sea Pioneer Ltd, being the charterers of the MV Cooper Island and Enesa Julio (Jnr) Pedrogosa; Nonan Ulysses Doria; Torino Jhundhel Adang; Alado Elpe De Pedro; Empedrado Ryan De Jesus; Liquit Niel Morris Auxtero; Akulov Oleg; Frugalidad Francis Cabaluna and Duran Nielstephen Dias, being crew members of the Vessel, MV Cooper Island on or about 6th July 2023 without lawful authority transported 24 kilograms o Cocaine, a Narcotic Drug, from the port of Santos, State of Sao Paulo, Brazil to Josepdam Port, a berthing Point under Tin Can Island Port, within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court and and thereby committed an offence Contrary to section 20(1)(a) and punishable under section 20 (2)(a) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Cap N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. 

All the defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.