Judiciary Has Roles To Play In Fight Against Piracy In Nigeria’s Maritime Domain –  CJN

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By Stephen Ubanna

 Between 2021 and now, that  the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, under the Leadership of Bashir Jamoh, and the National Judicial Institute , NJI,   had continuously   Collaborated to orgnise the Admiralty Law Colloquium, for Justices  of the Supreme Court, Appeal Court  and the Federal High Court of Nigeria,maritime analysts believe  that   ‘’it has helped in  streamlining  the application  of the Admiralty  Law in the country’’.

Jamoh, the NNIMASA, Director General and his Management Team, may have been encouraged to iintroduce  the Colloquium, in 2021,  which many believe  was in line  with  the agency mandate  ‘’to promote  the development of indigenous  shipping   and build capacity in the nation’s maritime sector,  targeting Justices of the Federal High Court  at the onset , who  by the provisions  of section 251 of the 199, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, were vested with ‘’the  exclusive jurisdictions  over Admiralty matters’’.

The scope of the  Colloquium  may have been expanded in subsequent edition  to include Justices of the Court of Appeal  and state High Court Justices of the Littoral states where the agency has established presence  and mindful also of their  strategic roles  I the dispensation of Justice.

The Admiralty Law Colloquium, may have become an all-important event with the passage of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime related offences, SPOMO, Act, by the National Assembly and which was subsequently signed into Law by President Muhammau Buhari in 2019.  Jamoh, Director General, of NIMASA, had said that the SPOMO Act would end piracy and sea robbery, particular, in the Gulf of Guinea.

There is no gain saying the fact before the Katsina state born Nigerian President signed the SPOMO Act, into Law, there were no specific Laws to determine the context of piracy in Nigerian waters and the Legal enforcement in response to maritime security in the county.

It was therefore not very surprising why Lawyers see the Piracy Act as an important sweep in ‘’securing the country’s coastlines  and seas, increased level of transparency  and accountability by strengthening  the governing institutions to attract investment capital  through implementation    of regulatory  and fiscal framework for the nation’s maritime industry’’.  Already some suspects have been convicted under the SPOMO ACT.    

Jamoh: DG,, NIMASA, Commended By CJN

Jamoh, had repeatedly said that  the Admiralty  Law Conference  had achieved  milestones  in the continued  efforts ‘’ to achieve  better maritime  Law Administration to  fie-tune  the processes  and proceedures of Justice Administration  in maritime issues in the country. This is evident as foreign investors have developed a sense of trust in the nation’s maritime industry, expected to enhance government revenue and in return ensure a fair return on investments.

 Recall that the NIMASA, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, had hinted at the, 2022, edition of the Colloquium of the inclusion of Supreme Court Justices and more Lawyers in the event. The NIMASA, helmsman had reportedly said that the decision was taken because of ‘’the increasing sophistication with which conviction of offenders had been secured at the Federal High Court. He had said that the zeal  was ‘’to further keep the nation’s maritime  space secured , promote socio-economic  development  and leaving no stone unturned , that calls for general participation.

He had drummed it to ear of many that in togetherness, ‘’we can gain efficiency, rationalize,   and create economies of scale that would make Nigeria more visible, credible and resourceful’’.  The inclusion of the Supreme Court Justices in the Admiralty Colloquium this time around may have informed why Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN and who incidentally is the   Chairman, Board of Governors of NJI, had stated categorically that ‘’the Judiciary has roles to play in all legal forms in the fight against piracy, sea robbery and other criminal activities in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea’’.

The CJN, who could not hide his feelings stated this while declaring open the third edition of the Admiralty   Law Colloquium for Justices of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and Judges of the Federal High Court in Lagos. Ably represent at the Colloquium  by  Justice  Musa  Dattjo Mohammed, at the Colloquium,  he noted that he was pleased  with the 2023, edition  of the event , because ‘’it was tailored towards  effective  and efficient adjudication  of cases  as well as  curbing the menace  of piracy  within the Gulf of Guinea.

The CJN, who could not his feelings averred that the Gulf of Guinea, is richly endowed, noting that ‘’it was necessary for the key maritime players to continually change in Constructive discussions to achieve the benefit associated with the nation’s maritime domain’’.

According to him the Gulf of Gulf of Guinea,  which encompasses eight West African countries, Benin Republic,  Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo  and the Central African countries of Cameroon and Gabon, , are home ‘’to about 4.5% of the world’s proven   oil reserves and about 2.7% of proven gas reserves’’.

      The CJN, reiterated that two-thirds of these oil and gas reserves are concentrated within the Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ,   described as the centre of economic activities in the region.  Note that the oil sector alone, accounts for over 75% of Nigeria’s yearly  revenue and about 90% of export cargo.

He was emphatic that the Gulf of Guinea which is richly endowed  with vast  reserves of hydrocarbon , minerals and fisheries resources, remains a strategic area to the Nigerian economy by containing he activities of Pirates and sea robbers from harassing ocean-going vessels  and their Crew  members coming into the Lagos port of Apapa, Tincan Islan, Port Terminal Multi-services Limited, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, KLT, ohases I and II, iand Lilipond ,including the south eastern ports of Onne and Port Harcourt, in Rivers state, Warri, Delta state and Calabar, Cross river state.

 The CJN, who described the Admiralty Law Colloquium is very apt, had corroborated what the NIMASA boss, had repeatedly said since the introduction of the Admiralty Law Colloquium that ‘’it would create   jobs,  build capacity  and increase maritime domain awareness’’.

 He is optimistic that participants at the Admiralty  Law Colloquium  would provide opportunity for the participants  to be able to maximize  the benefits of the maritime sector  and also create ideas  and strategies necessary  to further expose  judicial officers  ‘’to the  fundamental  developments in maritime security issues’’, that would enable them  to be at par  with internal  relevant Laws and policies  governing  the global  maritime security sub-sector’’

An Appreciative CJN, was said to have given kudos to Jamoh, the NIMASA Director General and his Management team for ‘’their grit and determination ’’in ensuring that the agency fulfills its mandate’’.  

 Justice Ariwoola, may have gladdened the heart of the NIMASA, CEO, when he noted that the agency under his Leadership,   over the last three years had recorded meaningful achievements in maritime security, and maritime safety   of the Deep Blue Project. He may have alluded to the effective implementation of Deep Blue Project in which the Nigerian government had spent $195 million to engage the services of HLSI Services and Technologies Limited, an Israeli security firm, which was said to supplied 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol, 17 Fast Interception boats, Two Special Mission Vessels, Two Special Mission aircrafts, three helicopters and four unmanned Aerial vehicles to the agency between 2020 and late 2022.

The CJN, confirmed that ‘’the deployment of the maritime security assets into Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea,   had led ‘’ to the impressive decline in piracy, sea robbery and other criminal activities in the region’’.

 Justice John .T. Tsoho,  Chief Judge of  a Federal High Court of Nigeria, in his remarks,  may have taken a cue from the CJN, to give kudos   to the Jamoh led Management of NIMASA for ‘’their role  in enhancing  the development of maritime Law and knowledge’’.  The Federal High Court Judge was said to have been represented by  Justice  Adekunle  Olayinka Faji , had declared that  ‘’since  the Federal High Court   has the primary jurisdictions in maritime matters,’’ it would always  support relevant  Legislations that would  ensure  efficiency  and effectiveness  in harnessing  the gains in the nation’s maritime  domain’’.

 He noted that ‘’the price of peace and freedom is vigilance’’, stressing that to reap the gains of a secured maritime industry, NIMASA, must continue ‘’to build capacity as it fine-tunes its Laws’’. He may have gladdened the heart of participants at the Collquium when he disclosed that ‘’work has been concluded on the new Admiralty jurisdictions Procedure Rules,and has been sent for gazeting’’.He had stated that  ‘’it is only in a matter of days  before the new Rules will come force’’.

Given an insider information on the Admiralty Law,, he further  disclosed that  the Nigerian Maritime  Law Association, NMLA,  is  also at work   on the new Admiralty  Jurisdictions  Act, noting that all these Legislative efforts  are geared ‘’towards  enhancing  the potentials of the  country in the Deep Blue Project and the overall growth of the  economy’’.

 Given the importance attached to the Admiralty Law Colloquium, Awwal Zubairu Gambo, a Vice Admiral and Chief of Naval Staff, CNS, was said to have been at represented at the event by Rear Admira B.J. Gbassa,  and  Tawfiq Ladan, a Professor,  and Director General, of Nigerian Institute  of Advance Legal Studies, NALS and including Justice Onochie Anyachebelu, Chief Judge of Anambra state were at the event.

 Earlier in  his remarks,  Jamoh, the NIMASA, boss, who was said to have been represented by Chudi Ofodile,   Executive Director , Finance and Administration , at the Admiralty Law Colloquium  was said to have  made it clear  to the Justices of the Supreme Court said to have beenand other  Legal luminaries who had participated at the Colloquium, that ‘’a well – developed  Blue Economy  would  be strong enough  to service the country’s yearly budget , as’’ it encompasses  all economic activities  associated with the oceans and seas’’.  

His major worry was that ‘’ despite the endowments and abundant resources in the nation’s oceans and seas to back the government economic diversification and development drive, the country is yet ‘’to take full advantage of the emergent ocean economy to expand its revenue base’’.

 The NIMASA, Director  General,  had said that the Blue economy  began to gain prominence  some  decades ago as member countries of the European Union, EU and other maritime nations including the North American Country of the United States, US, and the United Kingdom, UK,  were said to have been harnessing ‘’the full benefits of the ocean economy by protecting their oceans and seas’’. This may have encouraged Jamoh led agency  to work tirelessly  to secure the country’s maritime domain and  the Gulf of Guinea.

 The Theme of the 2023, Admiralty Law Colloquium , according Osagie Edward, an Assistant Director and the agency spokesperson  is ‘’Beyond Maritime  Security threats  In the Gulf of Guinea: Harnessing the Gains of a Secured Maritime Domain ‘’.

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