A Lagos court had struck out the names of 15 Russians from the suit.
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Tuesday heard that the alleged arms trafficking charge against the 15 Russian sailors had been dropped.
The Russians, charged with unlawful importation of arms into Nigeria are Zhelyazkov Andrey, Savchenko Sergel, Lopatin Alexey and Baranovskly Nikolay, Llia Shubov, Dimitry Bannyrh, Alexander Tsarikov and Kononov Sergel.
Others are Chichkanov Vasily, Varlygin Igor, Komilov Alexander, Mishin Pavel, Korotchenko Andrey, Vorobev Mikhail, Stepan Oleksiuk and their vessel, “MV Myre Seadiver”.
The accused were arraigned on a four-count charge of unlawful importation of firearms into Nigeria and non-disclosure of content of vessel.
The Prosecutor, Hajara Usman, from the Federal Ministry of Justice, informed the court of an amended charge before it.
She told the court that the charges against the Russians had been dropped and the amended charge now reflected the names of a Nigerian, Stanley Chineye, and his Company, Maritime Services Ltd.
Mrs. Usman, therefore, prayed the court to withdraw the initial charge reflecting the names of the Russians, their vessel, and their company, Moral Security Group Ltd., and substitute it with the amended charge.
The Judge, Justice James Tsoho, struck out the charge containing the names of the Russians and adjourned the case to November 26 for arraignment of the new accused.
The Russians, who were first arraigned on Feb. 19 before Justice Okechuku Okeke, pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Mr. 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.
The case, was however, transferred to Mr. Tsoho following the retirement of Okeke.
The prosecutor had told the court during their arraignment that the defendants and the vessel were arrested by naval officers on October 18, 2012, in Lagos State.
Mrs. Usman said the defendants had entered Nigeria’s territorial waters with their vessel, without due licence and clearance from the Nigerian Customs Service.
She also alleged that the accused refused to declare the content of the vessel contrary to the provisions of the Customs and Excise Management Act, 2002.
The prosecutor said that when the vessel was arrested and opened by the naval officers, a cache of firearms and ammunition was discovered in it.
Mrs. Usman said the offences contravened Section 27 of the Firearms Act, Cap F28, and the provisions of the Miscellaneous Offence Act, Cap M17 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
The new charge alleged that Mr. Chineye acted as agent to the Russian vessel, and misrepresented duly obtaining licence from the Nigeria Navy, for the entrance of the vessel into Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the Russian Embassy in Nigeria has described the dropping of the names of 15 Russian sailors held in Nigeria since October 2012 for alleged arms trafficking as an “objective verdict’’.
The embassy’s spokesman, Ilya Baranov, who confirmed their release in Abuja, welcomed the decision.
Mr. Baranov said: “the Embassy in Nigeria welcomes the dropping of the charge on the sailors.’’
The spokesman said the embassy expressed its gratitude to the Nigerian authorities for the decision. He said the sailors would shortly head home to Russia.