Hyacinth Chinweuba/Agency Report
International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and legal experts have advocated measures on how to address the issue of piracy and armed robbery at sea on the Gulf of Guinea, Nigerian and other African waters.
IMO representative to the maritime seminar for judges which ended last weekend, Gisela Viera, said it was the responsibility of coastal states to develop national and regional action plans that are appropriate to check pirates.
Assuring that IMO will provide technical assistance in this regard when requested by member states, Viera argued that there will be no lasting solution to piracy until the security situation ashore is improved.
In her comment on the topic “Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea: Issues of Legal Interpretation and Judicial Application ”, she suggested a multi-agency approach to maritime law enforcement as the way forward.
She added, “maritime security is a fundamental objective of IMO. Seem in a wider context in which shipping underpins the global economy and supports efforts to promote sustainable development worldwide, the protection of ships and ports from criminal offences must be successful”, she said.
According to her, “IMO remains committed to ensuring full and continued implementation of the maritime security regime, and will develop further measures as may be necessary. There can be no room for complacency when global trade is at stake”.
In his comment on the topic, Mr Mike Igbokwe (SAN) opined that until African states sign and domestic the relevant provisions of Treaties dealing with piracy and armed robbery at sea, their courts would not start having opportunities to interpret and apply their provisions in deciding charges of piracy and armed robbery at sea, adding that their jurisdiction in these areas would not grow.
Igbokwe said that if drastic actions were not taken by African states to ratify or accede to the applicable treaties, domesticate them and use same as one of the weapons for suppressing or curbing piracy and piracy, the crimes being committed were capable of destroying the economies of African states especially those of the Gulf of Guinea states, their shipping interests and capabilities.
He said, “please permit me to adopt the popular statement of President Buhari that ‘if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria’ in respect of piracy and armed robbery at sea and say, ‘if Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea States do not kill piracy and armed robbery at sea, piracy and armed robbery at sea will kill Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea States’.
The Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside in his comment called for the ratification, domestication and enforcement of maritime conventions by Gulf of Guinea States to address the issue of piracy and armed robbery.
Dakuku said ratification, domestication and enforcement of these treaties through the instrumentality of municipal laws by Gulf of Guinea states, would ensure synergy among members and ensure that piracy and other maritime crimes are punished to serve as deterrence.
He said this will also address the problem of lack of updated laws on the issue international laws.
He added, “it would also address the jurisdictional issues raised by the presenter in relation to the gathering and admissibility of evidence as the national legislations enacted would provide a robust and detailed framework on the approach”.
The NIMASA DG said already Nigeria’s draft Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Bill being facilitated by his agency has been approved by the Federal Government for legislative action by the National Assembly.
The Bill, according to him, seeks to strengthen the relevant international provisions on piracy and other unlawful acts within Nigeria’s maritime domain.
He said, “The draft when passed into law would provide the much needed legal and administrative framework for Nigeria to ensure safe and secure shipping in our maritime domain and address the administrative, technical and jurisdictional issues associated with the penalization of piracy and other unlawful acts like armed robber etc”.
In his paper which is the subject of comments, the Executive Director, Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa, Dr. Kamal-Deen Ali pointed out that the legal evolution of the law of piracy has been marked by difficult question of legal definition, interpretation and even more problematic issues regarding practical application of the law to facts.
Ali posited that with continuous growth of global shipping, with contingent maritime, economic and national concerns, the need and interest in legal framework of piracy and armed robbery will remain high on global agenda.
In conclusion, he was of the view that there was the need to address loopholes and shortcomings of the legal definition of piracy as well as other salient concerns that require attention at global and regional levels as crucial in combating a crime as heinous as piracy.
He added, “interest in the legal framework of piracy and armed robber remains paramount on global agenda. Legal scholars, judicial practitioners, policy makers and those in the maritime industry must not only pay attention to the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, but also be critical legal issues that need to be addressed”.
The seminar was organized by the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute (NJI).