The Nigerian Federal Executive Council (FEC) at its meeting held on 21 December 2017 approved a Memo by the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice for the Piracy and Other Unlawful Acts at Sea (and other related offences) Bill (‘Piracy Bill’) to be sent to the National Assembly to be passed into law. The Piracy Bill was drafted by a Committee set up by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). It seeks to give effect to the provisions of the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea 1958 and 1982 relating to Piracy, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation 1988, and to regulate other related offences and matters.
Nigerian waters continue to be one of the hottest spots globally for pirate and armed robbery at sea incidences. The deleterious effects of this menace in Nigerian waters is exacerbated by the fact that Nigeria does not have a legal regime on piracy as there is currently no legislation criminalising piracy and armed robbery at sea in Nigeria. Consequently, pirates and armed robbers at sea who were apprehended in the past by Nigerian security forces could not be tried in Nigerian courts for such acts.
The approval by the FEC is a welcome development and gives impetus to Nigeria’s quest to safeguard her waters and ensure the growth of international trade between Nigeria and other countries. Shipowners would surely rest easy when the Piracy Bill is passed into law and assented to by the President, as the threat of being charged and convicted for piracy and armed robbery at sea could serve as deterrence to such incidences on Nigerian waters.