Nigeria will this week begin the prosecution of suspected pirates under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, after arresting 27 of them within two months, as the onslaught to rid the nation’s waterways of piracy and other criminalities intensifies.
The Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh who disclosed this in Lagos, during interactions with journalists, also noted that the gesture would reassure the global community that Nigeria is truly getting on top of the security issues in its maritime domain.
Recall, the Nigerian Navy arrested 11 pirates in May 2020, with intelligence support from the NIMASA, handed them over to the Agency shortly thereafter and thereby making their trial to be the first, under the SPOMO antipiracy law, signed in June last year, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The SPOMO makes Nigeria the first in West and Central Africa to have standalone antipiracy legislation.
Expatiating on this, Jamoh who said the Agency was mounting a spirited campaign to root out piracy and armed robbery in the country’s waters, also stated that Nigeria’s waters were now safer for navigation, as NIMASA’s proactive approach to safety and security at sea had started yielding fruits.
This is evidenced in the multiple arrests of suspected pirates in the second quarter of the year, he said.
The Agency Boss highlighted that NIMASA had sent a proposal to the Federal Government on the issue of providing incentives for stakeholders in the maritime sector, positing also that the Federal Ministry of Transportation was equally putting final touches to arrangements for the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), stressing that maritime industry operators would soon begin to access the fund.
He said fighting crime with intelligence and technology had been the hallmark of his administration in the battle against piracy since he came on board three months ago.
Jamoh has launched a three-point agenda focused on Maritime Safety, Maritime Security, and Shipping Development, with the acronym 3s, on the assumption of office.
Said Jamoh: “Collapsing our agenda into security, safety and shipping development has given us a bird’s-eye view of the challenges inherent in our sector.
“Our strategy of nipping piracy in the bud is yielding positive fruit and that is why the Navy and the Police have arrested a total of 27 suspected pirates in the last two months.”
He added, “Our findings have revealed that these criminals work with the cooperation of international allies and that is what makes them sophisticated. We have set out to tackle them through intelligence gathering and collaboration with relevant stakeholders. Our recent arrests have shown the international community that we are not handling illegalities in our waters with kid gloves.”
He expressed delight in the changing international opinion on safety and security in Nigerian waters, as seen in a recent congratulatory letter by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO} to Nigeria for its zeal to make the country’s waters safe and secure.
On the question of incentives for the maritime sector, Jamoh stated, “We have made proposals to President Muhammadu Buhari through the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rt. Honourable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, for approval to grant different kinds of incentives that would help us grow the industry. We are also working to ensure the disbursement of the CVFF. We believe that other sectors, like manufacturing and aviation, have leveraged on this sort of incentive to grow and that is the reason we are also looking in that direction.”
Jamoh also spoke on the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), saying it is being redesigned to make it more effective.
He appealed to the media to ensure adequate and fair reportage of the activities of NIMASA, Nigeria’s maritime industry regulatory agency, in order to properly inform and educate the public. He said the sector had the potential to exponentially grow the Nigerian economy, given the enormous flora and fauna in the maritime environment, besides mineral resources and shipping activities.
NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy have recently been getting commendations for their efforts to guarantee security in the country’s territorial waters and the Gulf of Guinea.