In view of the incessant freedom granted suspected pirates and sea robbers arrested by the anti-piracy security operatives of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the agency has called on the judges of the Federal High court to always expedite actions in such cases in order to get conviction for the culprits.
The plea was made by the Director General of NIMASA, Mr. Patrick Akpobolkemi at the 6th Strategic Admiralty Law Seminar for Judges organised by the agency yesterday.
Speaking at the event, the DG said the long litigation period often granted the culprits the opportunity to easily get off the hook thereby portending danger to the lives of those fighting the course.
He said, “One area that I need your support is the issues of piracy or hydro carbon theft, the greater challenges is that many of the culprits that we arrest get themselves out of cell as quickly as we do not intend or want them to be.
“Today, we arrest someone for piracy with guns, arms and the rest, the next day you see them on the street, it endangers our lives it also dampens the interest of those fighting course, it will also encourage them to go back to commit the same crime and we cannot continue in this direction.”
While calling for a synergy between the agency and the bench, Akpobolokemi said the fight could not be won by NIMASA alone but in conjunction with the judiciary so that the desired result could be achieved in the Nigerian maritime domain.
He however added that if the law needed to be changed so as to be able to tackle the menace, it should be done because according to him, the problem has to do with the system and not the people.
In his words, “All of us must work together to change the situation because the situation where oil thieves are arrested and how they find themselves in the street the next day or the next few hours is a difficult something for us, and this is not what only NIMASA can achieve the result it so desires in this regard
“By collaborating with our partners in this case, with the bench, the judiciary and lawyers. So, let us find a way we can work together, if it will be to change our laws in front of us to do that; if there are some things we can do to expedite action in this area, because it is only punishment that can serve as deterrent to these thieves because it will be ungodly and inhuman and against the rule of law, for us to see these pirates and start killing them.
He therefore said that if the cases were promptly dispensed off with and the culprits spend certain years in jail, it will help to reduce the case of piracy in the Nigerian waters.
“If we arrest them tomorrow and they spent two or three years languishing in jail or cell, no one will venture into this activity but because they know the judicial system is long, and the law is that they can get bail, they go to compound the situation for us and that is making shipping unattractive for some new persons that want to go into the venture.”
Stating the purpose of the seminar, the DG said the agency had recognised the complex nature of maritime issues which required speedy resolutions as time was of the essence in maritime ventures.
In addition, he said NIMASA had made some significant achievements in the area of safety and security.
He stated that they have commissioned and put in place a satellite surveillance system which underlies the desire to monitor all forms of shipping activities in the maritime domain to ensure that the commercial opportunities in the sector are legitimately exploited while also tracking safety and security breaches.