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W/African countries lost close to $2.3bn to piracy, other maritime crimes in 2yrs

Worried by the escalating incidents of piracy and other maritime offences on the entire maritime domain of the Gulf of Guinea region, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) have set in motion capacity for effective implementation of the new Anti-Piracy Act through interpretation and understanding.

This was prompted by the concern resulting from the fact that West African countries and their trading partners lost about $2.3 billion to various maritime crimes that took place between 2016 and 2018.

Speaking in Lagos on Wednesday during the 9th Admiralty Law Seminar for Judges with the theme, ‘Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act 2019: Key to Accelerating and Achieving Safe and Secure Shipping,’ Dakuku Peterside, director-general of NIMASA, said the threat of piracy, armed robbery at sea and other maritime crimes had been an issue of global concern.

According to Peterside, the Gulf of Guinea sadly, had been at the epicentre of maritime security discussions globally, given the incidents recorded in the region.

Peterside stated that the challenge of maritime insecurity in the region had been further compounded by a deficit of legislation to address the challenge.

“With the signing into law by Mr. President on June 24, 20l9, the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act, facilitated by NIMASA, there is now a robust and detailed framework in place for the criminalisation and punishment of piracy and other maritime crimes in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.

He said the discussion at the seminar for judges would facilitate an understanding of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act and the collaborative mechanisms between the Judiciary and enforcement agencies in the implementation of the Act.

He however noted that it would also equip participants with the essential knowledge on the requirement of Nigeria’s obligations under the Act; and to foster interaction between the judiciary and enforcement officers to share ideas on the likely challenges if any in the enforcement of the Act.

Muhammed Ladan, director-general of NIALS, said the theme of the seminar was necessitated by the coming into force of the first standalone Anti-Piracy and Other Maritime Crimes Law in the Gulf of Guinea.

According to Ladan, the Law is aimed at stemming the tides of incidents of sea piracy and armed robbery as well as other challenges of maritime safety and security that hamper sustainable economic growth and development of all the littoral states in the Gulf of Guinea region.

Citing example, he said West Africa and its trading partners lost about $2.3 billion to maritime crimes between 2016 and 2018, and that on annual basis, the region lost about $777 million between 2015 and 2018 in addition to threat to lives experienced due to the escalation of piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery at sea incidents between 2018 and 2019.

“In 2018, maritime crime report released as at May 2019, shows that Nigeria, with a coastline of about 853km, was tagged as a piracy hotspot, by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) because in the first quarter of 2018, Nigeria alone accounted for 22 out of 66 piracy and armed robbery incidents at sea while eight out of 11 vessels fired upon globally, took place in the region,” he said.

He further disclosed that in 2019, IMB quarter three report revealed that Lagos seaport recorded 11 out of such incidents, making it the highest globally.

“The Gulf of Guinea is home to Nigeria, the largest economy and the most populous nation in Africa, whose economy generates more than 70 percent of the seaborne trade in West Africa and Gulf of Guinea because about 90 percent of global trade is carried out by ship in form of import/export of goods,” he said.

Ladan said through the strategic maritime law seminar that NIMASA and Institute plan to enhance the capacity of the Judges and law enforcement agencies in implementing the Anti-Piracy Act.

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