With no fewer than 25 Seafarers being detained in Ikoyi Correctional Centre for years now over sundry offences, the National Seafarers Welfare Board of Nigeria(NSWBN) has appealed to President Mohammed Buhari”s administration to revisit their cases and grant them amnesty as a parting gift before leaving office.
Arguing that it is in line with international best practices, NSWBN has called on the Federal Government to set up a review committee to review the cases of seafarers detained across Correctional Centres nationwide to expedite action on their cases and releases those not found guilty.
Speaking with the media, the Secretary of the Board, Dr. Amos Kuje noted that there is a global criminalization of seafarers or unfair treatment on the issues of ship accident and abandonment in countries, saying however, the law still permits that they are deemed innocent until proven guilty in court.
According to him, “Over ten years now, NSWBN has been visiting prisons to see if there are seamen in prisons. As of today, we have 20 Nigerians and five foreigners in Ikoyi prisons, while our checks and visits continue. And as part of our efforts to reorganize the Board, we want to focus on where seafarers face challenges while on board.”
Seafaring, he said, is regulated internationally by the International Maritime Organisation(IMO) and International Labour Organisation(ILO) on training and living conditions of seafarers and consequently have guidelines and conventions guiding the operations.
Amos said declared that Seafarers should be seen as partners in progress, saying that Seafarers involved in accidents are unfairly treated.
“When a crime occurs locally or internationally, Seafarers become scapegoats as shipowners take off, Seafarers are detained. The psychological trauma is huge and grossly unfair. Seafarers cases should be expedited upon or be handled timely based on rule of law because of the international nature of the work”, he added.
He noted that the IMO and ILO in joint tripartite meeting with governments of various nations issued a guideline on unfair treatment of Seafarers to the effect that any seafarer not found guilty in event of arrest should be allowed to go.
According to him, one the functions of NSWBN is to attend to the welfare and wellbeing of Seafarers both local and international, irrespective of their nationality, sex, religion and creed, country, among others.
He said Seafarers’ role as global workers include moving commerce in the global shipping and as such move from one jurisdiction to another.
In his intervention at the media chat, the Legal Adviser of NSWBN, Barr Emmanuel Nwagbara
noted that Seafarers earn their wages based on voyage which is based on either definite or indefinite contract terms and as such delay in dispensation of justice or treatment of cases can affect their voyage terms in huge losses.
He reiterated the call for committee to review cases of those in detention, saying the Ministry of Justice can set up the committee to include NSWBN, Federal Ministry of Transportation, concerned security agencies, to another look at the cases and make recommendations.
Nwagbara also called on courts to treat all seafarers cases with utmost urgency, adding that it has taken two years to try seafarers in Nigeria without compensations.
He called on the Judiciary, Legislature and Executive to give prompt attention to the welfare of seafarers in line the ILO conventions.