NIMASA Proposes Anti-Piracy Bill

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has presented a draft bill on Piracy and Other Unlawful Acts at Sea aimed at fighting Piracy and armed robbery at sea to stakeholders in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

In his welcome address, the Director General Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi represented by the Legal Adviser, Barrister Matthew Egbadon said the bill is expected to provide legal backing to the fight against piracy and other sea criminality and curb the financial losses which according to him are in excess of three billion US dollars.

He noted that the draft bill which was put together by the Agency’s consultant, the IMO technical consultant and the legal team of NIMASA entails the review of the UNCLOS 1982 and the SUA 1988 conventions and protocols as they relate to piracy.

The DG stated that “NIMASA being the focal point for the implementation of relevant maritime conventions on safety and security in Nigeria engaged Mr. Mike Igbokwe SAN to articulate and produce a comprehensive Maritime Security Bill which is being presented to you today. It is our hope that this workshop would enable all of you stakeholders to make your contributions to the bill before we send it to the National Assembly for enactment”.

Also speaking, renowned jurist and chairman of the occasion, Justice Adolphus Karibi White observed that shipping is very critical to human existence facilitating not just trade, but tourism and even moderating the climatic conditions.

He said that piracy and sea robbery are global phenomena which have made nations of the world to rise in one voice to implement measures designed to address this menace.

According to him, “the production of this draft bill is one of the strategies Nigeria as a member of the comity of nations has put together to address this trend. It is no gain saying that in the absence of laws, anarchy will reign and criminals will go unpunished and hence will continue to commit more heinous crimes. NIMASA must therefore be commended for this initiative”.

The eminent jurist said he was impressed by the effort of the team to capture the essence of current global efforts at addressing the scourge of piracy and noted that the bill was clear on jurisdiction.

While presenting the bill for stakeholders’ inputs, the consultant of the bill, Mike Igbokwe SAN invited stakeholders to be open in their deliberations noting that the country does not have laws for successful prosecution of piracy and related offences.

Stakeholders were unanimous in welcoming the bill which they said was long over due. There were however divergent views on the jurisdiction and punishment for offenders as many stakeholders wanted jurisdiction extended to state high courts and preferred the maximum punishment for offenders.

This draft bill was first presented to stakeholders in Lagos on March 22, 2012. This bill is a response to the communique issued at the end of an international seminar on “Capacity Building for Effective Maritime Security” organized jointly by NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy in Abuja in 2008. One of the resolutions reached was to enact a stand alone Maritime security Act that will cater for piracy and related maritime security breaches in the nation’s waters.

A statement by Hajia Lami Tumaka,head ,public relations of NIMASA said,the current management’s desire to give legal backing to the fight against piracy and sea robbery which have substantial economic and reputational damage to the nation gave impetus to this draft document.

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