30th March, 2012
The draft of a bill that would enable Nigeria to prosecute waterways robbers and sea pirates was presented to maritime stakeholders in Lagos recently for their input and approval before sending it to the National Assembly for passage into law.
Prepared by a Lagos lawyer, Mike Igbokwe who served as consultant to the government in the matter, it would help the country to domesticate all international conventions relating to the suppression of unlawful act against safety of marine navigation and those that are related to piracy at sea as enacted by the United Nations.
The draft bill was presented to the public by the Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Safety and Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi, who said that piracy in Nigeria had reached the climax.
He said that Nigeria was in need of a good legal framework to control the phenonmenon, which he described as a scourge.
According to the NIMASA helmsman, it would get to a point when vessels would no longer be able to navigate through the country’s territorial waters into the Nigerian ports, if a legal framework was not put in place to reduce robbery and piracy on the country’s waters.
“In a bid to develop a robust legal framework for fighting these incidences on sea, an international conference on piracy was organised by NIMASA in collaboration with the Nigeria Navy. One of the resolutions at that conference was the strengthening of existing legal framework. This bill is drawn not only from conventions of the IMO that Nigeria is a signatory to, but also provisions of other protocols yet to be conceded to, but important for curbing unlawful acts at sea.” he said.
Representative of the Naval Chief, Captain Chinoko said the Nigerian navy does not have the capacity to protect the Nigerian territorial waters.
According to him, the Navy was only given the trainings to engage pirates on the seas, but not the platforms and capacity that would enhance their performance on the sea.
“We don’t have the weapons and ammunitions to protect Nigerian territorial waters. We only have the training, but the capacity building is seriously missing. We can’t confront pirates on the sea, because we lack the sophisticated ammunitions to fight sea pirates. Besides, pirates have gone nuclear in their activities. Until government gives us all the necessary support and enhance our capacity we can not protect Nigerian waters,” Chinoko said.
Also speaking, the Minister of Transport, Mr.Idris Umar, said that insurance premium on imported goods in the country had greatly increased owing to Nigeria’s classification as a high risk area.
He however added that he was optimistic that the recent level of attention accorded the menace by the international community and laws like the one being presented was capable of reducing the trend.
However, presenting the draft bill, legal consultant to NIMASA, Mike Igbokwe (SAN), said there were no laws with which to successfully prosecute pirates and sea robbers in the country at the moment.