Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has appealed for the standardisation of the legal frameworks of countries in the Gulf of Guinea to aid effective prosecution of maritime crimes.
Jamoh made the appeal in Lagos at the Third Technical Rotating Meeting of the project on “enhancing regional research, convening of stakeholders and capacity development in the Gulf of Guinea” implemented by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in Accra and the government of Denmark.
A communique calling for the transformation of Yaoundé Code of Conduct into a binding convention for better coordination and optimal benefit to the member countries was issued at the end of the meeting organised in partnership with NIMASA and the Inter-Regional Coordination Centre (ICC).
Jamoh said efforts were being made to standardise regional maritime law enforcement, stressing that some countries are already enacting their own antipiracy laws.
“We encourage countries within the region, which do not have distinct antipiracy laws, to try to enact such laws. It is in the interest of every country in the Gulf of Guinea to consciously work to remove obstacles to the prosecution of piracy and sea robbery suspects.
“Shipping is an international business, and crimes associated with it are equally international in nature. Now, how do you try a suspect in a country where our SPOMO Act cannot be applied?
“No country can fight maritime insecurity alone. It is a collective responsibility. There is hardly any nation that does not have commercial interest in the Gulf of Guinea. So we must work to ensure uniformity of legal frameworks in the region to facilitate effective prosecution of maritime crimes,” he said.
The communique issued at the end of the meeting stated that the Yaoundé Code of Conduct (YCC) is merely a code of practice without any binding provisions, which affects the way it is implemented at the regional and national levels.
The meeting, therefore, called for expedited action towards the transformation of the YCC into a binding convention taking on board the peculiar contexts of diverse jurisprudence, linguistic traditions and the inter-regional coverage of the code as well as the differing procedures of the three sponsors of the Interregional Coordination Centre namely ECOWAS, ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission.
“Coordination of action at all levels is critical for impact on the ground. Such coordination efforts must begin with states demonstrating willingness to cede portions of their sovereignty and invest in the realizations of the provisions of the YCC.
“State and multilateral actors who lead in the implementation of safety and security measures in the Gulf of Guinea must identify and implement relevant confidence-building measures to reinforce the principles of coordination and in the implementation of the YCC,” the communiqué stated.
The Yaoundé Code of Conduct was signed in 2013 by 25 West and Central African countries. It provides the structure for joint operations, intelligence sharing, and harmonised legal frameworks among its five zones, two regional centres, and one Interregional Coordination Centre that watch over 6,000 kilometres of coastline and 12 major ports.