Following the first-ever successful prosecution of piracy in Africa by Nigeria, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ghada Fathi Wali, has applauded Nigeria for its leadership role and commitment towards curbing maritime crimes.
Wali gave the commendation in New York and noted that the successful collaboration between Nigeria and UNODC, as evidenced by the Global Maritime Crime Programme and the Strategic Vision for Africa launched in 2021, has encouraged the organisation to extend its partnership beyond national governments to regional organisations.
Indeed, 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. In response, President Muhammadu Buhari, on the 24th of June 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. But asides creating a legal and institutional framework for prosecuting maritime crimes, the Federal Government has also prioritised the provision of maritime intelligence facilities. For instance, President Muhammadu Buhari commissioned a state-of-the-art Falcon Eye Maritime Intelligence Facility at the Naval Headquarters in Abuja last year.
The set up and operationalisation of the project was facilitated by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) as part of efforts to boost Nigeria’s overall maritime security architecture, in accordance with the National Security Strategy (NSS, 2019), under which kidnapping of oil workers, sea robbery/piracy, incessant problems of crude oil theft, illegal bunkering, hostage-taking and maritime terrorism are classified as national security threats.
The commendation by UNODC on curbing piracy in Africa, 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, especially in the areas of intelligence sharing and coordinated legal strategy.