The 15 Russians arrested by the Nigerian Navy, which has been a subject of diplomatic row between Nigeria and Russia, were Tuesday arraigned before a Federal High Court in Lagos for alleged unlawful importation of firearms and ammunition into the country.
The Russians, who were arraigned before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on a four-count charge, pleaded not guilty to the allegations, while they were remanded in Ikoyi Prisons pending the determination of their bail applications.
They are Zhelyazkov Andrey, Savchenko Sergel, Chichkanov Vasily, Varlygin Igor, Komilov Alexander, Lopatin Alexey and Baranovskly Nikolay.
Others are: Mishin Pavel, Llia Shubov, Dimitry Bannyrh, Alexander Tsarikov, Kononov Sergel, Korotchenko Andrey, Vorobev Mikhail, and Stepan Oleksiuk.
The suspects were charged together with the vessel used to import the firearms called "Mv Myre Seadiver."
According to the charge, the Russians were said to have failed to declare the content of the vessel, contrary to the law.
The prosecutor, Ernest Ezebilo, told the court that the accused and their vessel were arrested by Naval officers on October 18, 2012, within the Nigerian territorial waters, in Lagos State.
He said that the accused and their vessel had entered the Nigerian territorial waters without due licence and clearance from the Nigerian Customs Service.
According to Ezebilo, 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 when the vessel was arrested and opened by the Naval officers, a cache of firearms and ammunitions was discovered concealed in it.
The prosecutor told the court that the accused were then arrested together with the vessel.
He said the alleged offences contravened the provisions of the Firearms Act, Cap F28, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, as well as the provisions of the Miscellaneous Offence Act, Cap M17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Defence counsel, Chukwuwike Okafor informed the court of his pending bail application before the court together with an affidavit and written address in support of the bail application.
He told the court that he had just filed the bail application in court, and served same on the prosecution.
On his part, the prosecutor requested for two dates within which to respond to the bail application, while the matter was adjourned to February 25 for hearing of the bail application.