Nigeria has introduced a new anti-piracy bill in a bid to improve security in its territorial and exclusive economic zone waters.
The Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, 2019, has received president Muhammadu Buhari’s assent after passing the Senate and House of Representatives on April 9 and April 30, respectively.
West African waters are the world’s most dangerous for piracy, according to the most recent International Maritime Bureau report.
Of the 75 seafarers taken hostage onboard or kidnapped for ransom worldwide so far this year, 62 were captured in the Gulf of Guinea, specifically off the coasts of Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon.
Nigeria’s bill 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.
According to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), which contributed to the bill draft, the new law also 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.
“This is not just a victory for NIMASA, but also for all the stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime community,” Dakuku Peterside, Director-General of NIMASA, said.
“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.”
As pointed out by NIMASA, some of the significant provisions of the bill 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.