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Government outlaws private security guards onboard vessels

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Notwithstanding the spate of pirate attacks on its territorial waters, the Federal Government has declared that the Nigerian Constitution forbids the use of armed private guards on board vessels.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who made this known at the 3th edition of Lagos International Maritime Week in Lagos, called on maritime stakeholders to develop a strategy to deal with the challenges within the permissible scope of security agencies to improve maritime security.

Malami, in a presentation entitled: “Armed Guards Aboard Merchant Vessels in Nigeria – Legal or Illegal,” said maritime security has become an important requirement for merchants’ vessels over the last decade. This, he said, is due to the increasing threats from pirates across the world, adding that the issue of maritime security in the Nigerian territorial waters should be taken seriously.

The Minister, who was represented by the Special Assistant to the President on Financial Crimes, Abiodun Aikomo, said: “Even though Nigerian-flagged vessels cannot make use of armed private guards as the law stands today. The reality is that there must be a dynamic strategy of dealing with security challenges facing merchant vessels in Nigerian waters.”

He added that: “Human beings have the responsible for self-preservation of their life and limbs and by extension, private properties and investments.

“As to the legality and illegality of armed guards on merchant vessels in Nigeria, the debate should no longer be focused on whether armed guards should be employed. Rather, how they can effectively, legally and safely be engaged with emphasis on accreditation and accountability.

“In this regard, the United Kingdom, and Norway have provided regulations on the use of private guards onboard. The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), has also announced its change of stance on armed guards.”

According to him, it could be necessary to amend the relevant laws in the long term, adding that there was a need for stakeholders to develop a strategy within the scope of power of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), in collaboration with other sister agencies.

The Lagos State Commissioner for Transportation, Ladi Lawanson, sued for massive financing in the sector, especially in the face of emerging innovations and advances in technology.

Lawanson, who was represented by his Technical Assistant, Mrs Olufadeke Immanuel, said shortage of maritime infrastructure in Nigeria has largely reduced the nation’s ability to harness the full potential inherent in the industry.

“In order to leverage the inherent wealth of the maritime sector, it behoves on us as government and people, to commit our resources towards the development of requisite supporting infrastructure for the sector.

The Consul-General of France, Laurent Polonceaux, noted that Nigeria was surrounded by French-speaking neighbours as well as being the largest trading partner of France in West Africa.

Polonceaux said the business interest of both countries pervaded all segments of economy value chain ranging from oil and gas, food and nutrition, pharmaceuticals, security, transportation, to logistics and Africa food production.

The Founder, Lagos International Maritime Week, Mrs Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore, said this year’s conference, themed “Developing Maritime Infrastructure in Africa,” argued that Africa’s development should define the vision for the industry by seeking international cooperation to actualise it.

According to her, Nigeria should take advantage of the global shortage of skilled maritime manpower by developing maritime education and training institutions, to produce skilled manpower for continental and global markets.


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