At its 61st Ordinary Session, the Authority of Heads of States and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), adopted the Supplementary Act on the conditions of transfer of persons suspected of having committed Acts of Piracy and their Associated Property and/or Evidence for prosecution among member states.
In a communique, the Communications Associate, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Ms. Olivia Ogechi Okorondu, noted that the adoption of the said Act was to further strengthen the gains made in securing the region’s maritime domain from acts of piracy.
The communique also stated that over the past decade, the Gulf of Guinea region has been at the epicentre of the global discussions on maritime security as a result of the incidents of piracy recorded in the region.
The communique revealed that in 2013, leaders of the members states of ECOWAS, the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), responded to the threat of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea by adopting the Yaoundé Code of Conduct to provide a framework to facilitate cooperation at the regional level to prevent and prosecute piracy and other illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea waters.
It further explained that in line with this framework, several initiatives have been undertaken at the bilateral and multilateral levels to suppress piracy in the region’s maritime domain.
The communique explained that notwithstanding the efforts, several factors such as the absence of robust maritime legal frameworks in the Gulf of Guinea States to prosecute acts of piracy, has immensely undermined such efforts.
According to the communiqué, “To date, only a few countries like Cabo Verde, Togo, Nigeria, Senegal, and Liberia have criminalized piracy and established universal jurisdiction in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982, to prosecute acts of piracy. This situation invariably has accounted for the very few successful prosecutions in the region over the past decade, like the Hailufeng II and G Dona 1 piracy prosecutions recorded in Nigeria and Togo respectively.
“In response to this challenge and to further strengthen regional cooperation, ECOWAS in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) developed the Supplementary Act on the Conditions of Transfer of Persons Suspected of Having Committed Acts of Piracy and their Associated Property and/or Evidence among ECOWAS members states, with support from the European Union (EU) through the project, “Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security (SWAIMS).”