The Nigerian Navy has handed over ten (10) pirates who attacked a Chinese vessel, the MV “HAILUFANG II”, to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for prosecution. The pirates boarded the vessel off the coast of Côte d’Ivoire on 15th May 2020 and directed it towards Nigerian waters. The pirates were arrested by the Nigerian Navy, which dispatched a ship to intercept the vessel after it got wind of the attack. The prosecution of the pirates would be the first trial of bandits arrested in international waters under the implementation of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act (“the Act”). The Act was signed into law in June 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari. It makes Nigeria, the first country in West and Central Africa to have a distinct anti-piracy legislation.
The Act, which brings an end to the question whether armed robbery committed on the high seas (piracy) falls within the rubrics of local legislation, gives exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine matters of armed robbery and other unlawful acts at sea to the Federal High Court. The Act does not only criminalize armed robbery at sea but also prohibits the hijacking of a ship, aircraft or fixed or floating platform; the destruction or vandalism of a ship, installation or navigation facility; and/or interference with the operation of a ship, installation or navigation facility.
The prosecutorial authorities under the Act are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF); any officer so designated by the AGF; or the NIMASA, with the AGF's consent.
We are optimistic that the Act will reduce acts of piracy on Nigeria’s territorial waters and surrounding international waters soon.
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