The accused were arrested on a vessel by men of the Nigerian Navy for alleged piracy and illegal dealing in petroleum products.
The trial of seven suspected sea pirates, charged with unlawful possession of arms and ammunition and dealing in petroleum products, was on Tuesday at the Federal High Court, Lagos, adjourned until Nov. 7.
The trial-within-trial began on Tuesday with the counsel to the accused contesting that their statements were obtained voluntarily.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the accused were arrested on a vessel by men of the Nigerian Navy for alleged piracy and illegal dealing in petroleum products.
They are also being tried for money laundering and unlawful possession of firearms.
The accused are Umarama Ovuiro, Adesola Peter, Collins Harrison, Paul Adeyemi, Adedeji Joshua, Samuel Oluwafemi, Abdulrahman Kabir alias Tunde and MT Dejikun,
According to the prosecution, the accused had on Feb. 19, 2016 at the Nigerian coast, conspired to deal in petroleum products from the vessel MT Dejikun, without lawful authority.
The complaint — the Federal Government — alleged that the accused while committing piracy, transferred petroleum products from another vessel, the MT Maximus vessel.
The prosecution said the accused were also in unlawful possession of AK 49 rifle no. 9973 and AK56 marked 15515.
In addition, the accused were allegedly caught with a single barrel Magnum no. 7080, 161 rounds of live 7.62mm ammunition, six empty AK 47 cartridges and six cartridges.
The offences violated Sections 3 and 8 of the Firearms Act of 2004, Laws of the Federation.
The offences of conspiracy, dealing in petroleum products without authority and transferring it to another vessel violated Sections 1 (17) and 3 (6) of the Miscellaneous Offences Act 2004 and Section 15 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.
They all pleaded not guilty and were remanded in prison.
At their trial on Tuesday, Mrs Eghwere Shadrach, a Senior State Counsel in the Federal Ministry of Justice, sought to tender statements made by the accused after their arrests.
But the defence counsel objected on the basis that the statements were not made voluntarily.
Counsel to the first and eighth accused, Mr Jerry Omoregie said: “My client informed me that the statement is a product of torture which spanned over a period of two weeks while he was in detention”
Again, counsel to the second, third, sixth and seventh accused, Mr N. C. Onyejiaka, also claimed their clients were forced to make statements.
Following the defence’s claim, Justice Muslim Hassan, ordered a trial-within-trial to determine the statements’ voluntariness.
But the Navy claimed that the statements were obtained voluntarily after the accused were duly cautioned.
Testifying in the trial-within-trial, a Lt.-Cdr. O. J. Adeyemi, said he took the statements and that none of the accused was forced to write the statements.
“I even bought food and drinks for two of the accused at different times when they complained of hunger.
“They wrote their statements willingly and not under duress,” he told the court.
Continuation of trial-within-trial has been adjourned until Nov. 7 and Nov. 8.