From left: Director General, Nigeria Institute of Advanced Legal Studies NIALS, Prof. Muhammed Tawfiq Ladan; DG, NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside; representative of the Chief Naval Staff, Real Admiral Murtala Mormoni Bashir; Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services, NIMASA, Gambo Ahmed and Executive Director, Finance and Administration, NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh during the opening ceremony of the 9th Strategic Admiralty Law Seminar for Judges by NIMASA held in Lagos from February 19-21, 2020.

Francis Ezem

The Directors-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration NIMASA, has said that he feels terribly bad each he gets report of pirates attacking vessels on the country’s waters. He however assured that with current efforts being made by the Federal Government, the issue of piracy and other criminal activities not only on Nigeria’s waters, but also in the Gulf of Guinea region will soon be a thing of the past.     

Recall that the Federal Government has already embarked on measures to ensure a smooth enforcement of the newly enacted anti- piracy law as part of efforts to stem criminality on Nigerian waters.

The Act prescribes jail terms of between 15 years and life, and fines from N50 million to N500 million for individuals and corporate organisations convicted for maritime offences in the country.

The DG spoke in an interview at the sidelines of the just concluded annual Strategic Admiralty Law Seminar for Judges put together by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies NIALS and NIMASA. The theme of the conference was, “Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences SPOMO Act, 2019: Key to Accelerating and Achieving Safe and Secure Shipping in Nigeria.” The event was meant to sensitise judicial sector actors on the import of the antipiracy law.

Peterside, who spoke alongside his co-organiser, the DG of NIALS, Professor Mohammed Tawfiq Ladan, respectively, emphasised the need for unencumbered enforcement of the law. They also for cooperation among the enforcement agencies, stressing, that stringent penalties await maritime criminals in the country.

The NIMASA-boss noted that with the coming on stream of the SPOMO, there is now a robust framework for the criminalisation and punishment of piracy and other maritime crimes in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea. He said the seminar afforded the Judiciary and the agency a unique opportunity to dialogue on issues of mutual importance, particularly, the sensitisation of judges on contemporary maritime law issues both within and outside the Nigerian jurisdiction.

Recall that the seminar was previously meant for only Judges of the Federal High Court, Court of Appeal, and High Courts of the littoral states. But this year, the scope of participation was further enlarged to include law enforcement agencies.

“With the world’s waters accounting for over 80 per cent of transportation requirements in the global trading supply chain network across established international routes and trade lanes, the threats of piracy, armed robbery at sea and other maritime crimes have been an issue of global concern.

“The Gulf of Guinea, sadly, had been at the epicentre of maritime security discussions globally, given the incidents recorded in the region. The challenge of maritime insecurity in the region had been further compounded by a deficit of legislation to address the challenge.” He said the SPOMO Act had addressed that challenge”, Peterside stated.

The DG also noted the theme of the seminar was carefully selected to facilitate an understanding of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act and the collaborative mechanisms between the Judiciary and enforcement agencies in the implementation of the Act.

“At the end, it is expected that there would be enhanced knowledge of participants in areas of the core mandate of NIMASA, heightened awareness on the provisions of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act and its enforceability, assessment of the standard operating procedures in tackling maritime crimes and the gaps and options for improvement and reform,” he stated.

On his part, the DG of NIALS, Ladan, said with the Nigeria’s economy generates over 70 per cent of seaborne trade in West Africa, adding that Nigeria and the entire Gulf of Guinea region will prosper if the seas were safe for investment and commerce.

According to Ladan, “Through this strategic maritime law seminar, we wish to enhance the capacity of, and remind our, Justice sector actors that we will all prosper when the seas around us are safe, secure and free for all to use and exploit natural resources, promote trade and investment, tourism, marine science and technology, maritime transport, infrastructure development, and fisheries.”

He said, “Through this seminar we hope to build greater understanding of the common challenges of maritime safety and security and how the SPOMO Act 2019 seeks to promote synergy among justice sector actors (judges, prosecutors, anti-corruption agencies, security and law enforcement agencies) to effectively respond to the multiple challenges earlier highlighted.”

President Muhammadu Buhari had signed the SPOMO Act into law on June 24, 2019. The law aims to tackle the menace of piracy and armed robbery on the country’s waters and exclusive economic zone with a strong and specific legal instrument that prescribes punishment for offenders and deters criminal elements. It is the first standalone antipiracy law in the Gulf of Guinea region.