A former Vice-President, Nigerian Maritime Law Association, Mr. Chidi Ilogu (SAN), says to address the increasing security challenges, including piracy and kidnapping, on the Nigerian territorial waters, the country must collaborate with neighbouring countries along the West and Central African coast.
This collaboration, he said, was in line with the recommendation by the International Maritime Bereau.
The urgency of the legislation, he said, was in view of a recent report by the IMB, which put the number of Nigerian crew members kidnapped by pirates in the first half of this year as 24.
The said kidnappings and armed robberies, Ilogu said, had led to increased cost of shipping and insurance, with the final consumers bearing the brunt.
Ilogu made this submission on Wednesday at the maiden edition of a public lecture series organised by the Department of Commercial and Industrial Law, University of Lagos, where he was the guest lecturer.
The Senior Advocate spoke on the theme, “Contemporary Issues in Shipping and Maritime Law in Nigeria.”
He recalled that the IMB, in its recent report, had detailed the new modus operandi of pirates, where it observed that, “In the past, these pirates had been content with boarding ships and stealing their cargoes, such as oil from tankers… (but) now, the gangs tend to board vessels, such as bulk carriers, up to 120 nautical miles offshore, kidnap some crew members and take them ashore to be held for ransom.”
“This report goes on to observe that the acts of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea, especially off the Nigerian coast, have increased in the last two to three years.
“This is regrettable as it has resulted in higher shipping and insurance costs on Nigeria-bound cargoes, which ultimately get passed to the consumers,” Ilogu said.
According to him, to tackle the menace of kidnapping and armed robberies on the Nigerian territorial waters, the IMB had called for collaboration among neigbouring states along the West and Central African coast.
This collaboration, the IMB said, “will allow for the hot pursuit of suspects into territorial waters of a neighbouring state by naval vessels from another state to apprehend the culprits.”
To this end, Ilogu submitted that, “There is every urgency for more effective legislation by the National Assembly to address the challenge in Nigeria and of course more effective naval and aerial surveillance of the Nigerian coastal, territorial waters and the EEZ to curb the menace.”
He described as a right step in the right direction, the Memorandum of Understanding that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency signed with the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies on matters of mutual interests including the security of the maritime environment.
Ilogu said, “By this MoU, the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA carry out regular patrol of the Lagos waters and other susceptible marine areas in the country. There is also a similar understanding with the Nigerian Air Force for aerial surveillance.”