How maritime court can deal with piracy, other crimes at sea —Nigerian Navy

The Chief  of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas

The establishment of a maritime court has become very important for the immediate and adequate management of cases connected with piracy and other crimes at sea, in order to ease the burden of keeping suspects or vessels arrested to that effect.

That was the view of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, who was represented in an interview by the Chief of Policy and Plans of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Begroy Ibe-Enwo, during the Global Maritime Security Conference(GMSC), which held in Abuja.

The GMSC was jointly organised by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Nigerian Navy, and the Federal Ministry of Transportation to address and proffer solutions to the problem of insecurity in the maritime domain within the Gulf of Guinea States.

Responding to questions on how well Nigeria had fared in terms of the legal framework to addressing the issue of piracy in the GoG, the Navy Chief said the immediate important action would be the establishment of a relevant and dedicated court to attend to the cases promptly.

His words: “Talking about the legal aspect, it is already recognised in Nigeria. Actually, the difficult area for us, for instance is, if the maritime criminals are apprehended and there are expeditiously disposed of; either they are guilty and properly treated or they are not guilty and they are left off the hook, I think we would have been getting some respite, because it is a huge task, even keeping the ships when they are arrested or keeping the criminals when you have arrested them. It is a lot of costs and engagements, with all the legal implication to it.

“So, we don’t want to be engrossed in that, because it is like a backlog. We are pushing the argument that other countries should also borrow a leaf from us. All these exchange will help, and they get to know more of what we are doing.

“The anti-piracy law newly signed by the President shows that Nigeria is very ready to wrestle this crime, because we know that the negative impact on the nation’s economy is very huge. So, there is need for a maritime court, which can help to dispose of these cases more expeditiously.”

Speaking on the strength of collaborations with other GoG States and integrated maritime strategy to conquer pirates’ activities, the Navy Chief said the GoG states have been apportioned into zones, drawing from an African Integrated Maritime Strategy 2050.

From his response, countries including Nigeria, Togo, Republic of Benin and Niger Republic belong to the Zone E of the maritime security arrangement, and had signed a Memorandum of Understanding to the effect of operational management.

As at the time of the session, it was hoped that a maritime security coordination centre would be established to run in Benin Republic, and that there would be a task arrangement to enable their ships can criss- cross from one country’s body of water to another without any hitches.

An important point in that arrangement, according to the Navy Chief, is to ensure that protocols required for entry into another country’s water is already taken care of, this making it difficult for criminals to have a hiding place.

He said that the Navy would like to see more collaboration, more coordination, and more importantly, trust, since the efforts would entail dealing with different countries that still have their sovereignty to protect as well.

He, however, expressed confidence that the forum, with various chiefs of navies meeting themselves with their staff officers and exchange of interaction, would help build trust, which is vital in the effort to ensuring security in the GoG area.