Stakeholders at the maiden Nigerian Admiralty Colloquium have expressed concern at the over N380 billion ($800 million) reportedly lost to sea robbers and pirates between 2015 and 2019 by the countries of the Gulf of Guinea (GoG), with Nigeria as the worst hit.
The colloquium was jointly organised by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) with the theme, “Achieving Maritime Safety, Security and Shipping Development through the Enforcement of Legislations and the Implementation of the Deep Blue Project: The Role of Judiciary and State Actors.”
Addressing participants at the event which ended over the weekend in Lagos, the Director-General of NIALS, Prof. Mohammed Ladan, noted that the region has been witnessing escalating incidents of piracy, robbery and kidnapping, with about 98 recorded attacks between 2018 and 2020.
According to him, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) having already branded the nation’s waters as piracy hotbed, and with Nigeria as signatory to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Agreement, judges and maritime stakeholders have a role to play in expediting justice for the security and safety of trade, and development of the nation’s maritime infrastructure.
“We cannot survive without global trade, which is facilitated by sea,” he insisted. “Through this colloquium, we wish to enhance the capacity of actors, prosecutors, investigators and private and government actors, because we believe strongly that through this series, we can ensure that the seas are safe, secure and free for all of us.”
On her part, President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, urged an open mind in charting a more efficient admiralty law system, because “only learning can help us have a clear and better perspective of right or wrong. It is therefore my candid opinion that any training that comes as no one is a repository of knowledge.”
She described the maritime sector as “indispensable,” and that being global in nature, informed knowledge of the law in the global environment was necessary in efforts to advance the sector. Therefore, “what touches this sector should be treated with great care.”
Earlier in his opening remarks, the NIMASA Director-General, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, had disclosed that the agency was carrying along judges from the High Court and Appeal Court to avoid justice delay in issues concerning maritime security, safety and shipping development.
He further disclosed that the communiqué issued at the end of last year’s edition had been presented to the National Assembly for necessary amendment.
“We have a deep blue project under the maritime security; it is being introduced by the Federal Government to see how we can arrest crimes on our waters,” Jamoh said.
“Over the time, we had challenges of platform and other infrastructure that can be used to address the issue of hoodlums that have continued to disturb our territorial waters.”
Seeking the support of the judiciary against maritime insecurity and for the protection of investments in the sector, Jamoh said the colloquium aimed to create solutions to the issues plaguing the nation’s maritime community.
Therefore, “it is important for the judiciary to coordinate its affairs in the light of ethics, professionalism and understanding of admiralty proceedings so as not to miss the important aspects of justice and fairness.
“The economy is being attacked by hoodlums. Once we continue to adopt personal thinking towards these issues, foreign direct investment will not come to us. Foreign investors will not have trust and belief in our judicial system. This is the background of the changes that occur with this particular theme.
“The implementation of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act has reached exciting milestones. Today we have the legal instruments complete. We have the belief that justice will reign.