• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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NIMASA canvasses legal powers to prosecute pirates, sea robbers

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Worried by the menace of piracy and other illegalities on Nigerian waters, the Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has highlighted the need for Nigeria to institute appropriate laws to prosecute pirates and sea robbers in the country.

Patrick Akpobolokemi, director general, NIMASA, who stated this at the sixth Strategic Admiralty Law Seminar for Judges held in Lagos recently, also lamented that the absence of laws had frustrated the agency’s ability to secure jail terms against suspected sea criminals.

“We need the support of the judiciary in handling the issues of piracy or hydrocarbon theft. The greater challenge is that many of the culprits, whom the agency arrests while committing the sea-related crimes, find themselves out of cell as soon as possible. We arrest someone for piracy with guns, arms and the rest, the next day you see the person on the street,” he lamented.

“When they are on bail, it endangers our lives and also diminishes the interest of those fighting piracy. This also encourages pirates to go back to commit the same crime, and Nigeria’s economy cannot continue to suffer,” he added.

The problem, according to the NIMASA boss, is the absence of laws to prosecute pirates and sea robbers.

“If there are areas we need to change the law to make it tough for implementation, let us do that. If it is the system that is sluggish, let us find a way of reducing the time that we can use to secure conviction so that we can deter the people from getting involved in criminal activities,” he said.

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Akpobolokemi further called for all hands to be on deck and work together towards changing the situation. He said a situation where oil thieves are arrested and they find themselves in the street the next day or the next few hours was making matters difficult, adding that it was not what only NIMASA could handle.

“NIMASA can only achieve the result it so desires in this regard by collaborating with other stakeholders such as the judiciary and lawyers to expedite action in this area, because it is only punishment that can serve as deterrent to these thieves,” he said.

Akpobolokemi also stated that the agency would not resort to “self-help” in dealing with criminality on the nation’s inland waters, hence the call on the judiciary to assist in checking the trend.

“It will be ungodly and inhuman and out of the rule of law for us to see these pirates and start killing them. We are in democracy and we are law-abiding,” he further said.

BusinessDay checks show that the Admiralty Law Seminar for Judges was created with the objective of facilitating interaction and exchange of ideas amongst stakeholders in the maritime sector. This has become necessary owing to the complex nature of maritime issues which require speedy resolutions as time is of essence in maritime ventures.

“These issues would oftentimes require resolution through judicial pronouncements by a competent court of law which no doubt puts pressure on those entrusted with the responsibility of not only responding to meet the economic exigencies of the scenarios, but also judicial officers responsible for balancing important notions of justice, contract and law,” the NIMASA boss added.

Uzoamaka Anagor