The recent jailing of 23 Pirates by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency ( NIMASA), has sent a signal to pirates , particularly within the Gulf of Guinea that it can no longer be business as usual.
The Agency has through this move restored hope and confidence to the international trading community that it is serious in making the GoG piracy free for seamless international Maritime trade
The Gulf of Guinea is the part of the eastern tropical Atlantic Ocean which spans through the West African coast: – from Cape Lopez in Gabon to Cape Palmas in Liberia. Its longitudinal frontiers extend, in no particular order, through about 17 countries such as, Gabon, Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Togo, Ghana, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Angola, Cameroun, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast, Sao Tome & Principe. It covers a coastline of about 2.3 Million Square Kilometers and 5,700 Kilometers with vast economic wealth such as hydrocarbon, mineral and fisheries resources representing about 25% of African shipping traffic and about 20 commercial seaports thus making the area an attractive international maritime zone.
Unfortunately, the Gulf of Guinea, has over the years, been the center of piracy attacks and other related offences particularly sea-going vessels and crew members plying this coast.
Over time ,there have been National, Regional and International efforts and collaborations to stem the tide of piracy attacks and other offences committed in the Gulf of Guinea.
Nigeria, being the biggest economy in Africa accounts for most of the vast resources and shipping traffic in the area and most of the attacks are traceable to its territorial waters
. Realizing the strategic importance of changing the narrative in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria has, in recent times demonstrated the Will and Might in curbing this age-long menace by the domestication and or putting into effect the provisions of both the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982 and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA) 1988 and its Protocols resulting in the enactment of the Suppression of Piracy & Other Maritime Offences Act, 2019 , otherwise known as SPOMO Act, as well as the launching of the Deep Sea Project amongst others.
The SPOMO, Act saddles the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) with the responsibility of coordinating its smooth administration and application
It was therefore not surprising when the Agency arraigned and obtained judgement against 23 Pirates .With the SPOMO Act, NIMASA has secured 23 convictions, out of which 10 were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, 10 seven years, while 3 foreigners were fined for their involvement in crime within the Nigerian territorial waters.
This development will definitely serve as a deterrent to other criminal elements who are still engaged in nefarious activities on the nation’s waterways and the GoG.
There is no doubt that the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Crimes (SPOMO), Act 2019 ,has come to stay and it is a victory for Nigeria as a whole in the nation’s determination to assume her rightful position in the comity of maritime nations.
It is therefore gratifying to note that as a result of the phenomenal success recorded through the SPOMO Act 2019, in which some convictions were made by NIMASA, who framed the SPOMO Act, that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has moved to prevail on twenty five countries in West and Central Africa on the need to adopt the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act 2019.
This indication was given when the Minister of Transportation, Eng Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, received the Secretary General, Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) Dr. Paul Adalikwu at the Ministry.
If this move sails through ,of which there are strong indications that it would,it means
Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, would be the subsisting law for the trial of piracy cases within the MOWCA sub-region irrespective of whichever sub-region the crime was committed.
Following this huge stride made by Nigeria in suppressing piracy within the GoG,it would not be out of place for the country to be returned to category C of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Despite these giant strides ,recorded by NIMASA,there is need to know the the job is not over yet.Therefore the Agency must not relent on its efforts to ensure that the maritime domain is safe and secure in line with its mandate of ensuring safety and security of the maritime corridors.Indeed, it’s not yet Uhuru!