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President Buhari signs Anti-Piracy Bill

       … Act will check maritime criminality, boost blue economy, says Dakuku

President Muhammadu Buhari has given his
assent to the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, 2019, in
an unprecedented move billed to bring a dramatic improvement in security on the
country’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. 

The Presidential
assent dated June 24, 2019 followed the passage of the bill by the Senate and
House of Representatives on April 9, 2019 and April 30, 2019, respectively.

The bill passed by the Eighth National
Assembly gives effect to the provisions of the United Nations 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.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and
Safety Agency (NIMASA) had facilitated the drafting of the Suppression of
Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill in 2012, in collaboration with the
International Maritime Organisation (IMO). 

It was in a bid to give further
credence to the relevant international treaties of the United Nations (UN) and
IMO ratified by Nigeria on maritime safety and security and provide a
much-needed legal and institutional framework for the country – through its
maritime security enforcement agencies: the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA – to ensure
safe and secure shipping on Nigerian waters, and prosecute infractions.

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 criminalise piracy.

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 step
in the right direction, saying, “It marks the dawn of a great moment for world

Dakuku said, “This is not just a victory
for NIMASA, but also for all the stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime
community. We are determined to continue to deliver on our promise to investors
and the international community to ensure an increasingly safer and more secure
environment for profitable maritime business.

“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.”  

The NIMASA DG thanked the President for
“his commitment and passion for measures that will guarantee safety and
security on Nigerian waters.” 

He also appreciated the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
(UNODC) for their support. 

Dakuku assured that the Agency will continue to work
with relevant partners and organisations to achieve its aim of ridding the
country’s waterways and exclusive economic zone of criminal activities.

“No man is an island; hence NIMASA cannot
achieve much without the support of other stakeholders. This is the time we all
need to work more closely together, so that we don’t give room to criminals to
have their way in our maritime domain,” he added.

Some of the significant 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
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.

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