By Favour Nnabugwu
Federal government has approved the procurement of 12 intervention vessels and 3 helicopters for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to fight piracy and other illegal activities on the country’s territorial waters.
The Director General of NIMASA. Dr. Dakuku Peterside made this known in a statement to Vanguard in Abuja Thursday, stating that the Federal Government is leaving no stone unturned in tackling the menace of piracy and other illicit crimes on the nation’s territorial waterways.
This he said was demonstrated by the Federal Government’s recent approval for the procurement of three (3) helicopters and twelve (12) fast intervention vessels to ensure coastal and aerial surveillance and patrol of the Nigerian maritime environment by the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA.
According to him, “As part of efforts by the Federal Government of Nigeria in demonstrating its commitment to fighting piracy and other maritime crimes, the sum of One Hundred and Eighty Six Million Dollars ($186, 000, 000. 00) was recently approved for maritime security infrastructure.”
He said, “While acknowledging the fact that piracy is a global problem which is not peculiar to one continent or country, the need for a concerted and coordinated approach in tackling the menace cannot be overstated”.
He equally debunked recent reports that piracy was on the increase in the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, noting that it is sad that some section of the media are manipulating statistics to the contrary. The truth he pointed out is that the reverse is the case as piracy has been reduced to the barest minimum.”
Accordingly, he noted that inter agency and regional cooperation through bilateral agreements among others, as well as effective maritime domain awareness and strong maritime legislation to criminalise and punish piracy is fundamental in addressing the challenges.
Speaking further, Dr. Dakuku said in recognition of the aforementioned, the governments of the West and Central African Countries including Nigeria at the regional level, subscribed to the Continental Maritime Charter on maritime security, safety and development in Africa, in Lome, Togo on the 15th of October, 2016, to strengthen inter-Agency and transnational coordination and cooperation among member countries in the area of maritime domain awareness, fight against all forms of maritime crimes, prevention and control of pollution of the seas and to promote economic growth of the continent of Africa.
“In the area of inter agency cooperation, it is expedient to mention that NIMASA recently renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian Navy to strengthen collaboration between NIMASA and the Navy to enhance the safety and security of navigation in our waters as, well as leverage on the use of the Federal Government’s Falcon Eye Satellite systems domiciled with the Nigerian Navy including NIMASA’s Global Maritime Distress and Safety Systems to respond to distress calls within Nigerian waters in order to prevent and adequately respond to threats within the Nigerian maritime environment ”, the DG stated.
In order to bolster the aforementioned efforts of the Agency to ensure a virile maritime sector through a robust legislative framework to criminalise and punish piracy and other maritime crimes committed in our waters to serve as a deterrent to offenders; Nigeria has prepared a draft Anti-Piracy Bill to give effect to the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts at Sea, 1988 and it’s Protocol of 2005 to punish and deter piracy and other maritime crimes.
The Director, Legal Services of NIMASA Mr. Abdulsalam Suleiman also speaking, noted that the Agency is presently working with the Federal Ministry of Justice to finalise the Bill and has the assurances of the National Assembly of the expeditious passage of the Bill into law within the shortest possible time to strengthen the Country’s Anti piracy crusade.
According to Suleiman “It is pertinent to draw attention to the fact that some of the interventions highlighted above are already yielding positive results and have been duly noted by the international community. Worthy of mention, is the just concluded Legal Committee meeting (LEG 104) of the IMO held in London from the 26th to 28th April 2017, where the issue of piracy around the globe was discussed and the Gulf of Guinea and Nigeria were not mentioned as one of the high risk areas”. This lends credence to the fact that Nigeria through its maritime law enforcement agencies are working assiduously in confronting maritime insecurity challenges in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea.