The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) may now be alive to one of its responsibilities following the arrest of vessels over illegal activities in the Nigerian waters.
Before now there have been several complaints by both officials of the apex maritime regulatory body and stakeholders that a lot of illegal activities go on in the nation’s territorial waters unchecked.
With this renewed zeal by NIMASA, we are happy that the agency may now be executing one of its briefs.
The NIMASA Act 2007, Section 23 subsection 5 (b) empowers the agency to “stop, enter, board, inspect and search any vessel or aircraft and detain any vessel or aircraft within the Nigeria maritime zone.’’
Subsection 5 (h) of that same section equally empowers the agency to “arrest any person whom it has reason to believe has committed an offence.”
Following recent activities of NIMASA and without prejudice, NIMASA, in relation to the above section, has been able to execute to the letter one of its briefs.
A case in point to the execution of this brief is the arrest penultimate week of a boat in the Lagos area with a large quantity of Automative Gas Oil (AGO) believed to have been stolen and the subsequent handover of suspects to the Nigeria Police Force, Marine Division at Kirikiri, Lagos.
Aside the power of arrest and detention, that same section 23 subsection 5 confers other powers on the agency such as investigation, expulsion and the right of hot pursuit.
Accordingly, subsection 5 (d) states that the agency shall “cause an investigation into any offence which it has reason to believe is being committed, or is about to be committed or has been committed with respect to offences committed under this Act.”
Subsection 5 (e) and (i) notes that the agency shall “exercise the right of hot pursuit” and “expel any vessel which it has reason to believe to be detrimental to the interest of or the endanger (sic) the order and safety in the Nigerian maritime zone.”
NIMASA must look beyond arrest and subsequent detention of vessels, because we have had cases of arrest of vessel without follow ups, and, even in some cases, some of the arrested vessels escape while in detention.
NIMASA should not just stop at arresting and detaining these vessels, it should ensure that these case are pursued to logical conclusions and the culprits brought to book to serve as deterrent to those who may still want to engage in such illicit activities.
The agency must ensure thorough investigations, so that the sponsors too of these illegal activities are brought before the law.