By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has said that ten pirates who were apprehended for hijacking a Chinese trawler; MV HAILUFANG II would be tried under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act
The law was signed into law in June last year by President Muhammadu Buhari, making Nigeria the first in West and Central Africa to have a distinct antipiracy legislation.
This is the first time pirates would be tried, using the SPOMO Act.
While speaking at the official handover of the 10 pirates who were arrested by the Nigerian Navy for prosecution, Director General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh said the pirates had on May 15 attacked and boarded the Chinese vessel off the coast of Côte d’Ivoire and directed it towards Nigerian waters.
They were arrested by the Nigerian Navy, which dispatched a ship to intercept the vessel after it got an alert.
Jamoh restated NIMASA’s commitment to collaboration among relevant agencies and stakeholders for the security of the country’s maritime domain.
Jamoh attributed the successful operation that led to the arrest of the pirates and rescue of the ship and its crew to collaboration between NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy. He said the Agency will continue to work with relevant security agencies in order to achieve its goal of eradicating piracy and all forms of illegality on the Nigerian waters.
The Director-General stated, “We have just witnessed the handover of pirates. This is as a result of the robust collaboration between NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy. There has been a lot of synergy between NIMASA and the Navy with regard to the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act.
“I also want to seize the opportunity to thank Mr. President for signing the anti-piracy law, which would facilitate sufficient prosecution of these pirates.”
Jamoh, who was represented by the Agency’s Head of Legal Services, Mr. Victor Egejuru, assured that with the anti-piracy law, there was ample legal framework to prosecute pirates and other perpetrators of maritime offences in the country to bring the menace to the barest minimum.
Commander of Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Commodore Ibrahim Shettima, who gave details of the naval operation, said the vessel had 18 crew members comprising Chinese, Ghanaians, and Ivorians.
Shettima said, “On interception of the vessel about 140nm south of Lagos Fairway Buoy, the pirates had refused to comply with the orders of the Navy ship, hence the Nigerian Navy had to conduct an opposed boarding of the vessel. All ship crew were safely rescued, while the 10 pirates were also arrested.”
He stressed the need for increased regional cooperation and information sharing, disclosing that the arrest of the pirates was due to a tip-off by the Beninoise Navy. Shettima warned criminal elements to stay away from Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, saying the Navy has the capability to deal with such threats.
Jamoh has said the current management of NIMASA will focus on three main areas, namely, Maritime Security, Safety, and Shipping Development, in pursuit of a robust maritime domain for the country.