By Stephen Ubanna
As the Nigerian waters are now safe ocean-going vessels which have been recognized by the International Maritime Bureau,IMB, a specialized Department of the International Chamber of Commerce, with a mandate to fight crime –related maritime trade and the International Community, Bashir Jamoh, the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, may have started the Campaign for a uniformity of Law in the entire Gulf of Guinea region to deal decisively with Pirates and sea robbers harassing ocean-going vessels in the region .
The 13 member countries of the Gulf of Guinea region, GoG, which include Liberia, Coted’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Republic of Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Gunea,Gabon,Sao Tome and Prrincipe, Zaire, Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, Angola were said to have regularly met to brainstorm on how to make the region safe for ocean-going vessels but that was how far they could go.
Maritime analysts may have set an agenda for the GoG member countries on how to deal decisively with th that Pirates and sea operating in the region through the enactment of uniform anti-piracy Laws. Individuals who commit a maritime related Crime in Nigerian waters who had escape to Ghana may be a free person in Ghana or any other country of the GoG, because the Nigerian Suppression of Piracy and other elated Maritime Offences, SPOMO, cannot be used to prosecute the suspect.
. The analysts had argued that that if there is a uniformity of anti-piracy Laws to deal with maritime related crimes, such as Piracy and, sea robbery in the region, the Pirates or sea robbers and their Foreign Collaborators would find it very difficult to Launch attack on any ship, let alone kidnap Crew members for ransom for fear of being arrested by the country’s Naval personnel or Maritime police.
Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, who has achieved so much in the Nigerian maritime domain appears to have taken advantage of the recent ‘’Technical Meeting on enhancing regional research, convening of stakeholders and capacity development in the region, that is being implemented by the Kofi Anan, a former Secretary General of the United Nations, UN, Training Centre, KAIPTC, in Accra, the Capital of the West African country of Ghana, and the Government of Denmark, in Lagos, to speak out on the importance of the uniformity of anti-piracy Law to be enacted by the member countries of the GoG to deal with the maritime related Crimes.
Informed sources told The Value News that the KAIPTC, meeting which is usually rotated among the member states of the GoG had remained a pace setter in the African continent. The recent Lagos meeting was said to have been organized by the KAIPTC, in partnership with NIMASA and the Inter-Regional Coordination Centre, ICC, Yaunde, Cameroon.
The NIMASA Chief Executive Officer, CEO, who has never missed any opportunity to sale his ideas on how to solve the security challenges in the GoG region, may have taken advantage of the Lagos meeting to appeal to the member states on the need for ‘’the standardization of their Legal frameworks to aid effective prosecution of maritime -related crimes’’ in the region. It was not surprising why they were said to have agreed for ‘’the transformation of the YCC, into a ‘’binding Convention for better Coordination and optimal benefit of the member countries’’.
The Nigerian Maritime Regulatory agency, helmsman, may have gladdened the heart of the GoG member countries and other participants when he disclosed of the current efforts being made ‘’to standardize the regiona maritime law enforcement ‘’, stressing that some of the member countries, have already ‘’enacted their own anti-piracy laws’’ which is a bad news for the pirates and sea robbers operating in the region as they may no longer have a hiding place.
Perhaps, to ensure that the entire GoG region, is safe for ocean going vessels, the NIMASA boss, has encouraged other member states that may not have considered it necessary to enact their own anti-piracy ‘’to try to enact such Laws’’. He was emphatic that, ‘’it is in the best interest of every country in the region to consciously work to remove the obstacles to the prosecution of pirates and sea robbery suspects’’.
According to him, ‘’ shipping is an international business’’, meaning that ’’maritime- related crimes associated with it are equally international in nature’’. He had lamented at the Lagos meeting how the Nigerian anti-piracy Laws cannot be applied to try suspects in any other member country of the GoG. He is optimistic that if there is a uniformity of anti-piracy Law in the region, suspects caught in the act could be prosecuted any country in the region.
A source told The Magazine, Jamoh, the NIMASA, CEO, had told the member states of the GoG, that ‘’no country can fight maritime insecurity alone’, insisting that it is a collective responsibility’’. He had made the member countries of the GoG to understand that that ‘’there is hardly any nation that does not have Commercial interest in the GoG’’.
It is surprising why he has continued to drum it to the ears of member countries of the GoG, on the need to work together to ensure the uniformity of Legal Frameworks to facilitate effective prosecution of maritime related Crimes’’.
In a Communique that was said to have been issued at the end of the KAIPTC, meeting in Lagos, the member countries, of the GoG, had declared that the YCC, as it stand currently stands, is a ‘’Code of practice without any provisions’’, noting that ‘’this will affect the way it is being implemented at the regional and international levels’’.
This may have informed why the member states of the region have called for an expedited action ‘’towards the transformation of the YCC, into a binding Convention taking on board the peculiar contexts of the diverse jurisprudence, linguistic traditions and the inter-regional coverage of the Code as well as the differing procedures of the three sponsors: ECOWAS, ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission, GGC’’.
Recall that the YCC, was signed into Law in 2013 by 25 countries in the West and Central African sub-regions, ostensibly ‘’to provide the structure for Joint operations , intelligence gathering and harmonized Legal Frameworks among its five zones, two regional centres and one inter-regional Coordination Centre, that was expected to watch over 6,000Km of coastline and 12 major seaports across the two regions.
The Kofi Anan Centre, which had masterminded the regular meeting of the member countries of the GoG, to rub minds on how to improve the security architecture of the region has a mandate, ‘’to ensure peace and security in the African Continent through Capacity building , research and policy dialogue’’.