On 24 June, Nigeria’s[GN1] President Muhammadu Buhari signed a law to improve security in Nigerian waters. The new “Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill” aims to ensure safe and secure shipping at sea, prosecute infractions and criminalise piracy.
Nigeria officially becomes the first country in the Gulf of Guinea to promulgate a standalone law to fight piracy. The bill fulfils the international requirement for a separate legislation against piracy set by the IMO, as to ensure global shipping.
The new law includes a distinct definition of piracy and other maritime offences. It provides penalties upon conviction for maritime crimes, restitution of violated maritime assets to owners and forfeiture of proceeds from maritime crime to the government.
The law vests exclusive jurisdiction in the Nigerian Federal High Court, providing relevant authorities with the power of seizing pirate vessels or aircraft in Nigerian or international waters.
Since June 2017, a bill on maritime operations was used to criminalise piracy, but the piece of legislation proved ineffective[GN2] [MLR3] . There have long been calls for specific legal framework and competent jurisdiction to try all maritime related offences. Back in January 2018, the president rejected a first maritime security bill, calling for a more holistic approach against piracy.
Nigeria’s waters [GN4] have been a hotspot for piracy incidents over the last decade, topping piracy charts in 2018 with 31 attacks. The number of attacks dropped in the first quarter of 2019.