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How admiralty is impacting maritime security in Nigeria

By Bashir Jamoh
09 March 2022   |   2:36 am
As NIMASA prepares to host the 2nd Edition of the Nigeria Admiralty Law Colloquium in conjunction with the Nigerian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies in Lagos..

Bashir Jamoh

As NIMASA prepares to host the 2nd Edition of the Nigeria Admiralty Law Colloquium in conjunction with the Nigerian Institute for Advanced Legal Studies in Lagos, it is my hope that this programme will truly become institutionalised in the calendar of our maritime industry. No doubt, the Colloquium which is in line with our mandate to promote the development of shipping and to build capacity in the maritime sector will target Judges of the Federal High Court who by the provisions of Section 251 (1) (g) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), are vested with exclusive jurisdiction over Admiralty matters.

This scope has subsequently been expanded to include Justices of the Court of Appeal and the State High Court Judges of the littoral States where the Agency has its presence and mindful also of their strategic roles in the dispensation of justice and now the Supreme Court which is the apex court of the land.

This year’s theme “Maritime Safety, Security and Shipping Development: Reflections and the way forward” is borne out of the need to reflect on the sector over the past five to ten years, analyse our challenges, praise our achievements and draw a road map on the way forward.

On maritime security, in 2019 The Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act came into law. This Act provided the legal teeth for the war against piracy in the Nigerian maritime environment – a war that assumes new dimensions by the day, with increasing sophistication and with which conviction of offenders has been secured. The further zeal to keep our maritime space secured, promote socio-economic development and leaving no stone unturned, led to the launch of the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure popularly referred to as the Deep Blue Project.

The project consists of sophisticated naval, aerial and land arsenal manned by highly trained and well-motivated professionals along the Gulf of Guinea and on the high seas to tame piracy and secure human lives. We have also leaned heavily on the limitless resources of information technology to integrate our security operations to provide stability to a singular non-oil sector that sustains the Nigerian economy.

This is important because the development of shipping has the capacity to generate over $12b annually and millions of jobs. I am delighted to inform you that these interventions by the Agency are being recognized. Even the respected International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has acknowledged our efforts and commended Nigeria’s progress in her quest for security in the Gulf of Guinea in its reports and taken it even further by delisting Nigeria from its infamous red list of piracy-prone states.

In addition, to enhance the maximization of the nation’s maritime resources to facilitate development, the Bills on the Agency’s enabling Act (NIMASA Act) and other laws such as Merchant Shipping Act and Cabotage Act have been amended and are presently before the National Assembly in line with current realities and international best practices. Success will require Collaboration, Cooperation, Coordination and Communication. It calls for general participation, for in togetherness we can gain efficiency, rationalize, join forces and create economies of scale that will make Nigeria more visible, credible and resourceful. Hence, we can safeguard our interests and value cooperatively with our international partners to make Nigerian maritime space attractive to foreign investors.

The sheer vastness of the maritime space and it’s many value chain opportunities compels NIMASA as the apex regulator and lead promoter of maritime in Nigeria to commit continuously to capacity building for judicial officials with a view to achieving a more comprehensive policy for adjudicating admiralty conflicts. The Nigerian Maritime sector remains a vigorous beacon of our country’s resilience and ability to thrive and prosper in the face of many challenges. In putting the program for the Colloquium together we selected relevant topics to provide motivating, intellectual discussions on the theme of this event. To do justice to these topics, we have also carefully selected highly knowledgeable and experienced Chairmen of Sessions and Resource Persons to take us through the sessions.

In the end, one cannot but be thankful to the judiciary for the unprecedented support NIMASA has received, especially realizing the impact of the SPOMO Act. The recorded convictions of criminals and their sentencing between 2021 and today has sent a clear message to all would-be practitioners of piracy and sea criminality that Nigerian waters will never again be a safe haven for them. They now know that if they do the crime they will be made to serve the time. These victories in the courts have rippled across the waters to help reduce piracy to a 28-year low. Additionally, Nigeria has become the judicial benchmark for the entire Gulf of Guinea in Admiralty matters as other member countries are now using the SPOMO Act as their model.

I hope that by the time the silks complete their vigorous interrogation at the colloquium on the matters of our admiralty, the exercise will nourish the Admiralty Law space for generations to come and they would have opened the floodgates of intellectually stimulating engagements needed to keep pointing our industry in the right way forward.
• Dr. Jamoh, Director-General and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, writes exclusively for The Guardian

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