Private armed guards on board vessels illegal, says FG

Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami


The Federal Government has said that it is illegal for private security guards to carry arms on board merchant vessels operating within the nation’s territorial waters.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), stated this in Lagos on Thursday during the Lagos International Maritime Week. 

Malami, who although acknowledged the prevalent security challenges facing merchant ships in the nation’s territorial waters, said under the Nigerian law, private armed guards are not permitted on merchant vessels within the nation’s waters.

The AGF, who was represented by Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Financial Crimes, Biodun Aikomo, said while there is need to amend relevant maritime laws in the long term, stakeholders should support the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Navy to address the security challenges facing merchant vessels in Nigeria.

“Maritime security has become an important requirement for merchant vessels over the last decade due to the increased threats from pirates across the world. The issue of maritime security in the Nigerian territorial waters is one that should be taken very seriously; human beings have the responsibility for self-preservation of lives and limbs, and by extension, private properties and investments.

“The question as to the legality or otherwise of armed guards on merchant vessels in Nigeria is quite straight forward. Under Nigerian law, armed guards are not permitted on merchant vessels within the Nigerian waters.

“Even though Nigerian-flagged vessels cannot make use of armed private security guards as the law stands today, the reality is that there must be a dynamic strategy of dealing with the security challenges facing merchant vessels in the Nigerian waters. 

“It may be necessary to amend the relevant laws in the long terms but in the meantime, stakeholders should develop a strategy to deal with the challenge within the permissible scope of powers of NIMASA in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy and Marine Police,” the Minister said while delivering a paper titled Armed Guards aboard Merchant Vessels in Nigeria: Legal or Illegal at the event.

Malami said his office was working with the National Assembly to ensure quick passage of the anti-piracy bill, which is being sponsored by NIMASA.