The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said it would prosecute pirates under the new Anti-piracy Law.
The Director-General of the Agency, Dr Bashir Jamoh, stated this in Lagos during the official handover of pirates arrested by the Nigerian Navy for prosecution.
Jamoh, who was represented by the agency’s Head of Legal Services, Mr Victor Egejuru, said that NIMASA was commited to collaborate with relevant agencies and stakeholders for the security of the country’s maritime domain.
He noted that the 10 pirates had on May 15 attacked and boarded a Chinese vessel, MV HAILUFANG II, off the coast of Côte d’Ivoire and directed it towards Nigerian waters.
He disclosed that they were arrested by the Nigerian Navy, which dispatched a ship to intercept the vessel following a tip off.
“The prosecution of the pirates will be the first trial of bandits arrested in international waters under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act signed into law in June last year by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The law made Nigeria the first in West and Central Africa to have a distinct antipiracy legislation,” he said.
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 that the agency would 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.
“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,” he said.
Jamoh 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.
He said that the current management of NIMASA would focus on three main areas, namely, maritime security, safety, and shipping development in pursuit of a robust maritime domain for the country.
The Commander of Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, Commodore Ibrahim Shettima, who gave details of the naval operation, said the vessel had 18 crew members including Chinese, Ghanaians, and Ivorians.
Shettima said: “On interception of the vessel about 140nm south of Lagos Fairway Buoy, the pirates refused to comply with the orders of the Navy ship.
“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 said.
He stressed the need for increased regional cooperation and information sharing, adding 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 had the capability to deal with such threats.(