By Sumaila Ogbaje
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), has commended Nigeria for the first-ever successful prosecution and conviction of pirates in Africa.
This is contained in a statement issued by the Head of Strategic Communication, Office of the National Security Adviser, Mr Zakari Usman on Thursday.
He said the Executive Director of UNODC, Ghada Wali, gave the commendation in New York.
Wali also applauded Nigeria for her leadership role and commitment towards curbing maritime crimes
The UNODC boss attributed the success to effective collaboration between Nigeria and UNODC through the Global Maritime Crime Programme and the Strategic Vision for Africa launched in 2021.
He said that one of the gaps identified by the Federal Government of Nigeria in the fight against maritime crimes was the weak legal and institutional framework for prosecuting offenders.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that President Muhammadu Buhari, on June 24, 2019, assented to the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences (POMO) Bill.
“By the POMO Act, Nigeria became the first country in the West and Central African sub-regions to promulgate a stand-alone law against piracy.
“The Act also domesticates, as required, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982 and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (SUA), 1988.
“In July 2021, under the POMO Act, the Federal Government secured the successful prosecution of 10 pirates for the first time anywhere in Africa,” he said.
Wali said the federal government had also prioritised the provision of maritime intelligence facilities such as the inauguration of a state-of-the-art Falcon Eye Maritime Intelligence Facility at the Naval Headquarters in Abuja in 2021.
He said the set up and operationalisation of the project was facilitated by ONSA as part of efforts to boost Nigeria’s overall maritime security architecture, in accordance with the National Security Strategy (NSS, 2019).
He added that kidnapping of oil workers, sea robbery/piracy, incessant problems of crude oil theft, illegal bunkering, hostage-taking and maritime terrorism were classified as national security threats.
According to him, the commendation by UNODC, therefore, places enormous responsibility on Nigeria to continue to lead innovative efforts towards the fight against maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea and across the continent.
The ONSA, he said, is committed to ongoing national, regional and international collaboration to strengthen legal, administrative and operational efforts in line with national maritime security objectives.
“All Stakeholders are, therefore, encouraged to continue to set high standard in the prevention and prosecution of maritime crimes,” he said.
MAN reports that three men fined by a court in Port Harcourt in July 2021, were among nine accused of hijacking the tanker MV Elobey VI off Equatorial Guinea in March and securing a 200,000 dollars ransom for the crew.
NAN reports that the court fined the three men convicted 10 million naira (26,300 dollars) each for each of the two counts of piracy to which they pleaded guilty.
The remaining six pleaded not guilty and their trial continues.(NAN) (www.nannews.ng)