DG NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside

Francis Ezem

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA has commenced the enforcement of Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences SPOMO Act 2019, about six months after its enactment. This is in line with Federal Government’s efforts to stem the tide of piracy attacks on ships and other maritime crimes not only in the country but also in the Gulf of Guinea as a whole.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had last year promptly signed the SPOMO Bill into law, which was earlier enacted by the National Assembly. This legislation, which is first of its kind in Africa, is a brainchild of NIMASA in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Transport and remains one of the several initiatives by the agency to rework the nation’s maritime security architecture towards eliminating all forms of maritime crime in her territorial waters and the Gulf of Guinea at large.

Director General of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who restated the agency’s commitment towards eradicating all forms of maritime crimes on the nation’s waters, spoke at the ongoing three-day 9th edition of the annual Strategic Admiralty Law Seminar for Judges organised by NIMASA in collaboration with the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies NIALS, in Lagos, with the theme: “Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences SPOMO Act 2019: Key to Accelerating and Achieving Safe and Secure Shipping in Nigeria”.

According to the DG, with the world’s water 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 and other maritime crimes have become an issue of global concern.

He noted that the Gulf of Guinea has sadly become the epi-centre of security discussions globally, given the incidents recorded in the region, adding that the challenge of maritime insecurity in the region had further been compounded by a deficit of legislation to address this challenge.

 The DG observed that with the signing of the SPOMO Bill 2019 into law on June 24, 2019 by President Buhari, there is now a robust and detailed framework in place for the criminalisation and punishment of piracy and other maritime crimes in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea.

It was gathered that topics for discussion carefully selected for the seminar are to facilitate the understanding of the SPOMO Act 2019 and the collaborative mechanisms between the judiciary and enforcement agencies in the implementation of the Act, to equip participants with the essential knowledge on the requirements of Nigeria’s obligations under the Act.

Others include fostering interaction between the judiciary and the enforcement officers to share ideas on the likely challenges if any in the enforcement of the Act, among several others.

It was in the light of this that the agency expanded the scope of participants at the event, which before now targeted only Federal High Court judges in view of the exclusive jurisdiction of Federal High Courts under section 25 (1) (g) of the 1999 constitution (as amended) over admiralty matters.

The scope was subsequently expanded to include the judges of State High Courts of littoral states and latter judges of the Court of Appeal, mindful of their strategic roles in the dispensation of justice and has further been expanded to include security agencies, especially the Nigerian Navy and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC.

The DG, who noted that the seminar has in the last nine years afforded the judges the opportunity of knowing contemporary issues in the shipping industry, expressed appreciation to the National Judicial Institute NJI for approving the participation of the judges, also thanked the management and staff of the NIALS for collaborating with the agency, which made the event possible.

Meanwhile, the Director General of the NIALS, Prof. Mohammed Tafawfiq Ladan, while speaking at the event, noted that the SPOMO Act 2019, which he described as a stand -alone piece of legislation, is not a perfect instrument, rather work in progress, adding that if applied properly would check the incessant cases of maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.

According to him, the country needs a platform to implement the various instruments in view of the growing incidences of maritime crimes in the region, especially recently in Lagos areas, which is not good for the nation’s image.

He thanked the DG of NIMASA and his team for charting the way forward in the eradication of piracy and other related crimes on the nation’s waters as well as collaborating with the institute.

In attendance at the event were also representatives of sister maritime agencies including the Nigerian Shippers Council, the Nigerian Ports Authority and the National Inland Waterways Authority NIWA, among several others.