Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has given his assent to the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill of 2019, in an unprecedented move to enhance security on the country’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.
The bill passed by the Eighth National Assembly gives effect to the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982, and the International Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Navigation (SUA), 1988, and its Protocols.
Besides addressing maritime insecurity, the new law, very importantly, fulfills the international requirement for standalone legislation on piracy, as against the approach of using the Maritime Operations Coordinating Board Amendment Bill to criminalize piracy,
Provisions of the Act include a distinct definition of piracy and other maritime offences/unlawful acts; punishment upon conviction for maritime crimes; restitution to owners of violated maritime assets or forfeiture of proceeds of maritime crime to the Federal Government; and establishment of a Piracy and Maritime Offences Fund with prescribed sources of funding that will be utilised in the implementation of the Act.
The new law also vests exclusive jurisdiction for the determination of matters under the Act on the Federal High Court. It empowers relevant authorities mentioned under the Act to seize vessels or aircraft used for maritime crimes anywhere in Nigeria and in international waters or in the jurisdiction of any country where the ship is reasonably believed to be a pirate-controlled ship or aircraft.
With the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act, Nigeria has officially become the first country in the West and Central African Sub-Region to promulgate a separate law against piracy, an important international requirement set by the IMO as part of measures to guarantee secure global shipping.
Speaking after the Presidential assent, the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, described the move as “a great moment for world maritime.”
This is not just a victory for NIMASA, but also for all the stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime community…And the new law at this very critical stage of our Blue Economy drive is certainly an elixir that will boost our capacity to harness the rich potential of our seas and oceans,