By Eromosele Abiodun
The specialised shipping regulatory agency of the United Nations, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has hailed Nigeria’s effort to stem piracy in its waters and the Gulf of Guinea, stressing that the country is sending a “strong and valuable message” to the global community.
The Secretary-General, of the IMO, Kitack Lim, made this known in a letter addressed to the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh.
The letter came amid recent arrests and first-time prosecution of suspected pirates under the country’s new antipiracy law.
Lim said he was impressed by Nigeria’s efforts, “to address maritime security threats in the region,” adding that Jamoh’s “leadership and proactive response” to maritime security issues were laudable.
Jamoh had told the IMO Secretary-General at a previous virtual meeting following the arrest of some pirates by the Nigerian Navy, in partnership with NIMASA, that piracy in the region was being sustained by powerful foreign collaboration. He appealed for support from the international community to complement the steps being taken by Nigeria towards ridding the country’s waters of maritime crimes.
“I would also like to reiterate my congratulations to the Nigerian Navy on the successful capture and arrest of pirates from the fishing trawler Hailufeng II, and more recently on the rescue of the crewmembers of the containership Tommi Ritscher, ”Lim stated in the letter.
“Those actions, together with all the other initiatives you highlighted in our meeting, including progress with the Deep Blue Project, send a strong and valuable message to the international community with respect to the considerable efforts your Government is making to curb piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Gulf of Guinea,” he added.
The IMO Secretary-General reiterated the organisation’s readiness to assist NIMASA in the training of personnel and technical assistance, and also declared his willingness to talk to other member countries to assist in that respect.
He said IMO would help to deal with the issue of synergy in laws regarding piracy with other neighbouring countries.
In a related development, the Nigerian government has handed over the fishing vessel Marine 707 suspected to be carrying out illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea to the Ghanian authorities for further investigation and possible prosecution.
Nigeria also handed over 51 crew members including 48 Ghanaians and three South Korean nationals to the Government of Ghana and Korea respectively.
The vessel which had authorisation to fish in Ghana and Benin waters was arrested by the Nigerian Navy on the 18th of May, 2020 around the South-west of Lagos waters with her Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched off after being suspected to be used for piracy or being used as a mother ship to conduct piracy in the Gulf of Guinea was handed over to NIMASA after preliminary investigations by the Navy.
While speaking during the official hand-over of the Ghanaian flagged vessel and the crew to the respective authorities, Jamoh said that the Navy, NIMASA partnership which is now hinged on intelligence has put Nigeria on a pedestal of winning the war against piracy and other illegal acts at sea.
Jamoh, who was represented by the agency’s commander, Maritime Guard Command Commodore Aniete Ibok, disclosed that though preliminary investigations could not establish that the vessel and its crew were directly linked to piracy, the vessel still violated international laws for shutting down its Automatic Identification System (AIS) 36 times in the last six months, three of which were done in the Nigerian waters.
According to him “we are handing over this vessel to the Ghanaian authorities in the spirit of bilateral cooperation both countries enjoy. We have done our preliminary investigations and we are yet to establish any concrete evidence against the vessel but again, we would not know what she would be doing whenever she turns off her AIS which occurred 36 times without being logged in her record book in line with international protocols and three of these were in our domain. However in the spirit of brotherhood that Ghana and Nigeria enjoys we are handing over the vessel to Ghana for further investigations”