Maritime lawyer blames security agencies, courts for anti-piracy Act enforcement
A foremost maritime lawyer, Osuala Emmanuel Nwagbara, has blamed security agencies and the judiciary for the low implementation of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act.
The SPOMO Act, which was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, to curb and deter sea piracy, armed robbery and other unlawful acts at sea, has only been able to secure 23 convictions as of August 2022 with 10 sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Another 10 persons were given seven years each. Three foreigners were fined for their involvement in crime within the Nigerian territorial waters.
Speaking on whether or not the SPOMO Act has met expectations, Nwagbara noted that the Act has been reduced to be a slap in the wrist of offenders as against the initial vigour to prosecute maritime offenders
He lamented a complete amnesia on the part of both the court and enforcers of the law, leading to the huge losses recorded in the petroleum sector, where crude oil is stolen and lifted in both large and smaller vessels out of the country.
The legal practitioner said the intent of the Act was being frustrated in a number of ways, adding that if the Act was implemented the way it ought to, most of the offences recorded on daily basis in the Nigerian maritime domain would be drastically reduced, if not completely eradicated.
“The security agencies, by failing to apprehend criminals on our waters, are frustrating the provisions and the intent of the Act. The courts are not as hard as we expect on a few cases that we have analysed in recent times, such as in punishing maritime domain offenders of which the SPOMO Act was actually geared at. Even the enforcers, we have the prosecution done by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and maybe the office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
“Again, there is also a lull in their efforts to prosecute offenders within the maritime domain on offences that come within the remit of SPOMO.
“SPOMO is a very comprehensive legal instrument and if it is implemented with vigour, I think that most of the offences that we record today in the Nigerian maritime domain would be drastically reduced if not completely eradicated,” he said.