By Dike Onwuamaeze
The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Yusuf Jamoh, has disclosed that the trial date of the 10 sea pirates arrested in the Nigeria’s waterways would be decided today, June 22 by the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos State.
Jamoh, who disclosed this during the weekend when he briefed journalists in Lagos, said that the pirates, who were arrested by the operatives of the Nigeria Navy in May this year, were charged to court on Friday, June 19.
He also revealed that the arrest of the sea pirates, which was the first in Nigeria waterways in almost five years and other structures that were put in place to fight insecurity in the country’s water ways, earned Nigeria international goodwill and also dissuaded the United Nations from asking the warships of the United States of America to take over the control of Nigeria’s territorial waters beginning from this month.
He attributed their arrest and subsequent arraignment to the renewed synergy between NIMASA and the Nigeria Navy, Nigeria Police, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and other stakeholders in the fight against insecurity in Nigeria’s waterways.
“From 2016, we never made a single arrest. But due to this synergy and the seriousness of all the parties, the Nigerian Navy arrested 10 pirates that were charged to court at FHC, Ikoyi, on Friday, June 19 and we will know when their trial will commence on Monday, June 22. Moreover, the Nigerian Police arrested 17 pirates recently. Their trial will test the Nigeria’s Anti-Piracy Act,” Jamoh said.
He also revealed that the agency has set up a stakeholders’ committee that would review the Cabotage Act of 2003 for its amendment by the National Assembly.
Jamoh said that the committee would finish its work by October this year and send its recommendations to the Minister of Transport, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, for onward transmission to the National Assembly.
According to him, the amendment of the Cabotage Act would remove all hindrances to the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) and enhance the expansion of ship ownership by Nigerians.
He said: “Over the five years, we have understudied ship ownership by Nigerians only to find out it is reducing. In January this year, the stakeholders formed a committee that is chaired by me to review the Act and remove the bottleneck and find a leeway to disburse the fund. We are targeting October to conclude the review of the Act so that the honorable Minister of Transport will forward it to the National Assembly.”
The director general emphasised that no kobo has been disbursed from the fund since its establishment in 2003 to the detriment of the growth of the country’s maritime industry.
Jamoh also used the press briefing to highlight the efforts of NIMASA to win the battle against insecurity in Nigeria’s territorial waters and enhance revenue generation capacity of the maritime sector by subsuming the functions and the mandate of the agency into three “S” namely the maritime security, the maritime safety and the maritime shipping development and capacity building.
He listed the efforts to include the acquisition of two special vessels that would carry smaller vessels to rescue any ship that is attacked on Nigeria’s waterways.
“We also have order for the procurement of two special mission aircrafts that will around Nigeria’s territorial waters with special gadgets that can collect data and images and transmit them to locations that will address the insecurity. We are expecting these two special mission aircrafts in Nigeria by August this year.
“Three special mission helicopters that can go into the creeks and land to collect information and monitor the activities of the criminals in our territorial waters will be due in Nigeria in January 2021.
“We have the impact special vessels under our Project 17 intervention vessels. We have so far received 15, only two remains.
“Then we have what we call the C4I (the command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) centre that has satellite to oversee the whole territorial waters up to exclusive economic zones.
“We are working to ensure that we have effective Global Maritime Distress System (GMDS) that will ensure that a ship in distress can call with the press of button, and we will come to its aid. Once this is in place the issue of missing vessel will become a thing of the past.
“These platforms will boost our zero tolerance maritime insecurity and make the era of missing ships a thing of the past,” Jamoh said.
He said that these milestones earned Nigeria a commendation letter and congratulatory message from the United Nations’ Secretary General.
Jamoh also said that the opening of the floating dock yard established by the NIMASA would earn a projected revenue of N1 billion per month with the capacity to employ 350 youths.