Femi Atoyebi | PIRACY AND MARITIME OFFENCES IN NIGERIA; HIGHLIGTHING THE SALIENT PROVISIONS OF THE SUPPRESSION OF PIRACY AND OTHER MARITIME OFFENCES ACT, 2019. 
Femi Atoyebi | PIRACY AND MARITIME OFFENCES IN NIGERIA; HIGHLIGTHING THE SALIENT PROVISIONS OF THE SUPPRESSION OF PIRACY AND OTHER MARITIME OFFENCES ACT, 2019. 
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PIRACY AND MARITIME OFFENCES IN NIGERIA; HIGHLIGTHING THE SALIENT PROVISIONS OF THE SUPPRESSION OF PIRACY AND OTHER MARITIME OFFENCES ACT, 2019. 

PIRACY AND MARITIME OFFENCES IN NIGERIA; HIGHLIGTHING THE SALIENT PROVISIONS OF THE SUPPRESSION OF PIRACY AND OTHER MARITIME OFFENCES ACT, 2019. 

11:04 13 September in Law, Maritime, Piracy
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INTRODUCTION.

Piracy has been an age long occurrence peculiar to not only the Nigerian Region, but also to the global world. In the West Africa region, the Gulf of Guinea, although being a major international commercial waterway which spans across 17 African Countries inclusive of Nigeria has also, been a hotspot for various piracy attacks and other maritime offences. The seemingly unending saga, has received several international and national concern and responses with the sole aim of changing the narrative. The IMO Secretary-General, in 2021, hinted that the issue of piracy at the Gulf of Guinea poised a serious and immediate threat to crews and vessels operating in the West African waters.  In Nigeria, there has been a recent domestication of the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS], 1982 as well as the Convention for the suppression of unlawful acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation [1988]. This led to the enactment of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act, 2019. 

OBJECTIVE OF THE ACT.

The sole aim of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act, 2019, is to prevent and also suppress piracy, armed robbery and other unlawful acts done against a ship, aircraft and other maritime craft, including a fixed or floating platform. And its application does not only cover the territorial waters of Nigeria, but also the international waters.

NOTABLES FROM THE ACT.

DEFINITION OF PIRACY AND MARITIME OFFENCES.

The Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act, gave a clear picture of acts that constitutes Piracy and that which constitute Maritime Offences.

 According to the Act, Piracy can be seen as any illegal acts of violence committed by the crew or passenger of a private ship or aircraft and for private purposes, against another ship, aircraft or property, in International waters or aa place outside the jurisdiction of a state. It could also include the voluntarily participating in the ship or aircraft used for pirate purposes, knowing that such ship or aircraft is to be used for pirate purposes. A person who incites or facilitates the commission of the acts aforementioned is equally guilty of the commission of piracy.  Maritime offences on the other hand, include armed robbery or any other acts except acts of piracy. Acts that constitute Maritime offences are succinctly highlighted under the Act. [S 4 of the Act]. 

A major distinction that can be drawn from both piracy and maritime offences is that, while piracy usually occurs in the international waters or outside the jurisdiction of any state, maritime offences usually occurs within the Nigerian maritime zone or Nigerian jurisdiction. 

RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PROSECUTION OF AN OFFENDER.

Under the act, prosecution of an offender is vested on the following;

  • Attorney General of the Federation;
  • A law officer in the office of the Attorney General of the Federation;
  • The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act [NIMASA] with the consent of the Attorney General of the Federation first sought and obtained. [S. 5(1) of the Act].

JURISDICTION OF COURT.

The Court vested with the exclusive jurisdiction to entertain matters under the Act is the Federal High Court. The court has the powers to try offences committed under the Act when it is committed;

  • By a Nigerian Citizen;
  • In Nigerian territorial waters;
  • Against a ship registered in Nigeria or flying the Nigerian flag as at the time the offence was committed;
  • Against a fixed or floating platform located on the continental shelf of Nigeria;
  • On an international voyage or international sea of a foreign country provided the act has a Nigerian element, UNCLOS or SUA convention elements or involves several element parts of which relates to Nigeria. [S. 5(2) (3) of the Act]

POWERS OF RELEVANT GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITY IN RESPECT OF OFFENCES UNDER THE ACT.

For the purpose of effecting the provision of the Act, a member of the relevant authority is vested with the following powers;

  • Seizure of the ship or aircraft used for the commission of maritime offences or pirate-controlled, which could be done anywhere in Nigeria, in international waters or a place outside the jurisdiction of Nigeria. In carrying out this function, the relevant authority must make use of a ship or aircraft that is marked and clearly identifiable as being on Government service.
  • Effecting arrest on and taking custody of a person believed to have committed an offense stated under this Act.
  • Conduct an investigation as to the facts of the offense. An application can be made ex-parte by the authority to the Federal High Court for the detention of an alleged offender for a period of 90 days until the conclusion of the investigation. The application for detention is subject to renewal.            

PENALTIES FOR OFFENCES.

  1. When a person is guilty of commission of an act of Piracy, whether or not he was armed with a weapon or firearm, shall be liable to Life imprisonment and a fine of not more than ₦50,000,000.
  2. A person guilty of a maritime offense, armed robbery at sea or any act aside acts of piracy, and causes grievous bodily harm to a person during the commission of the offense, shall be liable to at least 15 years imprisonment as well as a restitution to the owner or forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria, whatever property or gains he obtained during the course of the unlawful acts. However, If such unlawful leads to the death of another person during the commission of the act, he shall be liable to life imprisonment, without the possibility of a parole as well as restitution to the owner or the Federal Government of Nigeria, whatever property or gains obtained during the act.
  3. When a body corporate commits an act of piracy, it shall be liable to a fine of at least ₦500,000,000 and each of its director shall be liable to a fine of not less than ₦100,000,000 and imprisonment for at least 15 years each, in addition to the restitution to the owner or forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria, whatever property or gains acquired by them in the commission of the act. 
  4. When a body corporate commits any other maritime offense or unlawful acts, it shall be liable for a fine of at least ₦350,000,000 and each of its directors shall be liable for a fine of at least ₦100,000,000 each and imprisonment for at least 12 years each as well as restitution to the owner or forfeiture to the Federal Government of Nigeria, the property or gains obtained by them during the commission of the act.
  5. An attempt to commit an act of piracy or maritime offence attracts a penalty of at least ₦100,000,000 or imprisonment of at least 12 years[in the case of piracy] and a fine of at least ₦75, 000,000 and imprisonment of 10 years [in the case of maritime offenses and other unlawful acts].

CONCLUSION.

The enactment of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act, 2019, being the first of its kind not only in the Nigeria community but also the Africa continent, has indeed received applaudable responses as a welcoming development. Since the promulgation of the Act, there have witnessed a drastic reduction of crimes at Nigeria waters, thereby portraying its effectiveness. 

According to the IMB report titled, ‘Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ship’, of the 58 incidents, 12 incidents of piracy were reported in the Gulf of Guinea, and 10 cases were classified as armed robbery and the remaining two were referred to as ”Piracy Attacks” – with none of them occurring in Nigerian waters. 

REFERENCES.

  • Donald Ibebuike, Callitus Ojukwu (2022). Nigeria:Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea: Is the Trend Changing. Accessed on Wednesday 17th August, 2023. 
  • Premiumtimesng.com (2022). Nigeria Record drops in Sea Robberies , Piracy Attacks— Report. accessed on Wednesday 17th August, 2023.
  • https://www.dryadglobal.com/gulf-of-guinea-and-nigerian-piracy. accessed on Wednesday 17th August, 2023.
  • Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act, 2019. 
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