Nigeria begins trial of pirates under new law

Robert Egbe

Nigeria last week began the prosecution of suspected pirates under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act.

Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director-General, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said this was part of efforts to rid the country’s waterways of crime and address the safety concerns of the global community.

The Nigerian Navy arrested the suspected pirates recently, with intelligence support from NIMASA, and their trial will be the first under the anti-piracy law signed last June by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The law made Nigeria the first in West and Central Africa to have a standalone antipiracy legislation.

Jamoh, who spoke with reporters in Lagos, said the agency was mounting “a spirited campaign” to root out piracy and armed robbery in the country’s waters.

He said Nigeria’s waters were now safer for navigation, as NIMASA’s “proactive approach” to safety and security at sea had started yielding fruits. This is evidenced by the multiple arrests of suspected pirates in the second quarter of the year, he said.

He disclosed that NIMASA had sent a proposal to the Federal Government on the issue of providing incentives for stakeholders in the maritime sector. He noted that the Federal Ministry of Transportation is also putting final touches to arrangements for the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), adding that operators in the maritime industry would soon begin to access the fund.

According to Jamoh, fighting crime with intelligence and technology had been the hallmark of his administration in the battle against piracy since it came on board three months ago.

Jamoh, who, on assumption of office, launched a three-point agenda on Maritime Safety, Maritime Security, and Shipping Development, with the acronym 3s, said: “Collapsing our agenda into security, safety and shipping development has given us a bird’s-eye view of the challenges inherent in our sector. Our strategy of nipping piracy in the bud is yielding positive fruit and that is why the Navy and the Police have arrested a total of 27 suspected pirates in the last two months.”

He added: “Our findings have revealed that these criminals work with the cooperation of international allies and that is what makes them sophisticated. We have set out to tackle them through intelligence gathering and collaboration with relevant stakeholders. Our recent arrests have shown the international community that we are not handling illegalities in our waters with kid gloves.”

Jamoh expressed delight in the changing international opinion on safety and security in Nigerian waters, as seen in a recent congratulatory letter by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO} to Nigeria for its zeal to make the country’s waters safe and secure.

On incentives for the maritime sector, he said: “We have made proposals to President Muhammadu Buhari through the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rt. Honourable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, for approval to grant different kinds of incentives that would help us grow the industry. We are also working to ensure the disbursement of the CVFF. We believe that other sectors, like manufacturing and aviation, have leveraged on this sort of incentive to grow and that is the reason we are also looking in that direction.”

Jamoh also spoke on the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), saying it is being redesigned to make it more effective.

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