A bill that seeks to provide a legal framework for the administration of Nigeria’s territorial sea and offshore activities scaled third reading on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday.
The ‘Bill for an Act to Repeal the Exclusive Economic Zone Act 2004; and the Territorial Waters Act 2004 and Enact the Nigerian Maritime Zone Act to Provide for Maritime Zones in Nigeria,” was sponsored by Senator representing Rivers East, George Thompson Sekibo.
The passage of the bill was sequel to the consideration of a report on it by the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters led by Senator representing Ekiti Central, Opeyemi Bamidele.
Bamidele, in his presentation, said the bill seeks to streamline all national laws and efforts in line with global best practices in other jurisdictions and provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
He noted that with the new legislation, a legal framework has been provided to guide all activities in the oceans and seas.
Bamidele said the bill became compelling in view of the vast resources from the ocean, which include oil and gas, fish and fisheries resources, minerals, placer deposits, salt, renewable energy resources amongst others.
He stated that stakeholders at a public hearing on the bill posited that the territorial sea, in addition to the internal waters, is a zone within which Nigeria enjoys sovereignty.
He, therefore, emphasized that the legal nature of the maritime zone is relevant and sacrosanct to the negotiation process of the establishment of maritime boundaries.
He noted that recent events with neighbouring states have brought to the fore, the seeming shortcomings of Nigeria’s policy on the ocean, which is not consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“These obvious shortcomings have made it imperative for us to review our maritime zone legislation, and the underlying policy to enable Nigeria to advance its argument for the ‘Extended Continental Shelf’ claim and effective management of the coastal and ocean environment.”
Clause 18 of the bill makes provision for the prosecution of anyone found guilty of any offence committed in artificial island, installation or structure. If convicted, such a person will be liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or a fine of N3 million naira or both.
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