BY JOHN IWORI
The absence of powers to prosecute persons arrested for perpetrating crime in Nigeria’s territorial waters is hindering the anti-piracy campaign of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), its Director General, Mr. Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi has said.
While disclosing that NIMASA had made several arrests of persons involved in illegal bunkering, oil theft and piracy-related activities, Akpobolokemi expressed dismay that they are yet to be prosecuted due to what he called “challenges in the system.”
Although he was not specific on these challenges, the NIMASA helmsman said very little result had been recorded in prosecution because going by the provisions of the Act establishing the agency, it lacks the power to prosecute those it has arrested in connection with illegality in Nigerian waters.
He therefore, called on the judiciary and other legal officers to assist the agency in its relentless fight against maritime crimes.
He also appealed to judicial and legal officers to come to its aid in the timely prosecution of persons involved in illegal activities in the nation’s territorial waters. Akpobolokemi, who spoke at the fifth strategic admiralty seminar for judges, organised by the agency in Lagos, noted that NIMASA has been effectively collaborating with the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies to curb crimes at sea.
He said the gains from this collaboration can only become tangible when the judiciary plays its part effectively.
Commenting on human capacity development, he said significant gains had been recorded through the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), which is expected to outlive the present management of the agency.
“We have embarked on a conscious effort to develop manpower for the Nigerian maritime sector with the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme”, he said. In order to further advance the capacity development initiatives, he said the agency had received approval from the Federal Executive Council to establish maritime institutes in four Nigerian universities – University of Lagos; University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State; and Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Bayelsa State.
He added that this was in addition to on-going plans for the establishment of Nigeria’s first maritime university.
The NIMASA boss pledged the agency’s commitment to continuously fund the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Akwa Ibom State, noting that partnership with the institution would be strengthened.
The strategic admiralty seminar, an initiative of the agency, is an annual programme which brings together Justices of the Appeal Court, High Courts and lawyers to brainstorm on contemporary issues in admiralty law and practice.