Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi has lamented the absence of appropriate laws to prosecute pirates and sea robbers in the country.
Akpobolokemi expressed frustration in government’s inability to secure jail terms against suspected sea criminals in the temple of justice yesterday at the at the 6th Strategic Admiralty Law Seminar for Judges held in Lagos.
“One area that I need support of the judiciary is the issues of piracy or hydrocarbon theft. The greater challenges is that many of the culprits that we arrest have themselves out of cell as quickly as we do not intend that to be. We arrest someone for piracy with guns, arms and the rest, the next day you see them on the street.
“When they are on bail, it endangers our lives. It will also dampen the interest of those fighting piracy, it will also encourage pirates to go back to commit the same crime and we cannot continue in this direction.
“It is the laws that is the problem, if there are areas we need to change the law to make it tough for implementation let us do that. If it is the system that is sluggish, let us find a way of reducing the time that we can use to secure conviction so that we can deter the people from entering the criminal industry.
“All of us must work together to change the situation. The situation where oil thieves are arrested how they find themselves in the street the next day or the next few hours is difficult for us, and this is not what only NIMASA can do.
“Also, NIMASA can only achieve the result it so desires in this regard by collaborating with our stakeholders and in this case, it is with the bench, the judiciary and lawyers.
“So let us find a way we can work together, if it will be to change our laws, please be in front of us to do that. If there are some things we can do to expedite action in this area, because it is only punishment that can serves as deterrent to this thieves,” he said.
Akpobolokemi also stated that the agency would not resort to “self-help” in dealing with criminality on the nation’s inland waters hence the call on judiciary to assist in checking the trend.
He said: “It will be ungodly and inhuman and out of the rule of law for us to see these pirates and start killing them, we are in democracy and we are law abiding.
“Jungle justice is against the rule of law that is why we bring them to the judicial process. So, if these cases are quickly treated, it will solve a whole lot of problems for us because if we arrest them tomorrow and they spend two or three years languishing in jail, it will deter others who may want to venture into this activity but because they know the judicial system is long, and that they can get bail, they go to compound the situation for us and that is making shipping unattractive for some new persons that want to go into the venture.”
Akpobolokemi said the Strategic Admiralty Law Seminar for Judges was created with the objective of facilitating interaction and exchange of ideas amongst stakeholders in the maritime sector.
“In initiating the Admiralty Law Seminar for Judges, we have recognized the complex nature of maritime issues which require speedy resolutions as time is of essence in maritime ventures.
“These issues would often times require resolution through judicial pronouncements by a competent court of law which no doubt puts pressure on those entrusted with the responsibility of not only responding to meet the economic exigencies of the scenarios, but also judicial officers responsible for balancing important notions of justice, contract and law,” he stated.
Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.