By Godfrey Bivbere
DIRECTOR General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Patrick Akpobolokemi, has said that the lives of officals of the agency are being threatened by pirates and oil thieves who have escaped prosecution.
He said that the inability of the judiciary to prosecute people involved in piracy and oil stealing has emboldened suspects to become threat to the lives of officials of the agency engaged in the fight against piracy and oil theft along the nation’s waterways.
Akpobolokemi, who disclosed this while speaking at the 6th Strategic Admiralty Law Seminar for Judges in Lagos, said that on several occasions those caught with weapons in the act of piracy or oil theft and handed over to the relevant government agency for persecution, walk out free few hours later.
According to the NIMASA boss, “The greatest challenges we have in the fight against piracy and oil theft, is that many of the suspects or culprits we arrest find themselves out of cell as quickly as we do not intend it to be. The day you arrest somebody for piracy, the next day you see him out walking about the street. It endangers our lives, it also dampens the morale of those fighting piracy and also encourages them (suspects) to go back and continue in the same act.
“All of us must work together to ensure that pirates and oil thieves are arrested, prosecuted and made to face the wrath of the law.”
He stressed that the only option available outside the arrest and persecution is the killing of suspects but noted that doing so will be against the law of the land especially under the present democratic dispensation.
He therefore called on all stakeholders, especially the judiciary to work together to bring about the right laws to ensure that those caught with evidence of actual involvement are dealt with in accordance with the law to serve as a deterrent for others who may want to toe that line.
He noted that theseminar which is in its sixth year is meant to sensitize judges on contemporary maritime law issues both within and outside the Nigerian jurisdiction, as shipping by its nature is a multi-jurisdictional enterprise.
Akpobolokemi explained that “with the decision to initiate the Admiralty law Seminar for Judges, we have recognisd the complex nature of maritime issues which requires speedy resolutions as time is of the essence in maritime ventures, he concluded.