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Senate tasks government on extension of nation’s continental shelf

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Senator Ahmad Lawan

The Senate has passed a resolution urging the Federal Government to redouble efforts towards extending the nation’s continental shelf.

Citing Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Nigeria, had in May 2009, written the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) to extend its continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical miles from the baselines wherein the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.

The above protocol allows coastal states to make an additional claim of between 200 nautical miles and a maximum of 350 nautical miles (650 miles) beyond their Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical miles (about 370 kilometers).

Adopting a motion sponsored by George Thompson Sekibo (PDP: Rivers East) and 32 others, the upper legislative chamber noted that “Nigeria’s claim for an extension of its continental shelf from 200 to 350 nautical miles is achievable and commended the setting up of an inter-ministerial technical committee which had coordinated the issues relating to the project since the year 2000.”

The lawmakers also pointed out that “it would be economically unwise for the Federal Government to foot-drag on the project at this time, as this will also portray Nigeria in a bad light at the UN since it had already invested a lot of taxpayers’ money in the project for the collection of geological, geophysical and hydrographic data but has not yet completed the process since its commencement in 2000 after the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1997.”

The motion sponsor had noted that the undertaking would boost the nation’s economy besides the accompanying security benefits.

The Senate specifically urged President Muhammadu Buhari “not to relent in his efforts to fully support the project to its conclusion by defraying the outstanding financial commitment to the Nigerian office (the United Nations Resident Team) set up for the project at the United Nations and the foreign consultants to enable them concentrate effort to obtain a positive recommendation from the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.”

The Red Chamber equally resolved to invite the United Nations Resident Team to brief it in four weeks on the status of Nigeria’s claim of its extended continental shelf.

It consequently directed its Committee on Marine Transport to follow up the matter.

Meanwhile, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Hamburg, Germany has ordered Switzerland to credit Nigeria with a $14 million bond for the release of MT SAN PADRE P10 and its crew after encroachment on the nation’s waters.

The Swiss-flagged 7,616 dwt bunker tanker was arrested by the Nigerian Navy on January 23, 2018, for operating in the country’s waters without a license.

The vessel and its crew were later to be charged for illegally dealing in petroleum products and forgery at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt.

But Switzerland in May this year challenged Nigeria’s enforcement actions by instituting arbitral proceedings under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Director, Legal Service of the Nigerian Navy, Commodore Jamila Malafa, broke the news yesterday in Abuja while addressing members of the standing committee on the implementation of a harmonised standard operating procedure (SOP) on arrest, detention, and prosecution of vessels and persons in Nigeria’s maritime environment.


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