Less than 72 hours after the Federal Government declared the services of private armed guards on board merchant vessels in Nigerian waters as illegal, dare devil sea robber last weekend attempted to rob a bulk carrier at the Lagos Anchorage.
According the report of the attack which was released by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) and which was sighted by one of our correspondents yesterday, on the 19th of May (Saturday), at the Lagos Anchorage, “seven robbers attempted to board an anchored bulk carrier using a rope attached to a hook”.
The attack was however repealed by the crew of the ships who raised an alarm.
According to the IMB, “duty crew noticed the robbers, raised the alarm and alerted the security watchmen who notified the local authorities”
“Seeing the alerted crew the robbers aborted the attempted boarding and moved away”.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami had last week announced the ban on private security guards on ships on Nigerian waters, at the opening of Lagos International Maritime Week which held in Lagos.
Even though the Minister acknowledged that Nigeria's waters present an alluring area for criminal activities such as piracy, armed robbery at sea, maritime terrorism, and a host of other vices, the AGF stressed that under Nigerian law, armed guards are not permitted on merchant vessels within her waters.
Malami who was represented by the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Financial Crimes; Biodun Aikomu had stated expressly that, in respect to security on Nigerian waters, it remains the prerogative of the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
He said that the National Assembly had enacted laws to address specific issues relating to maritime security and operations including the NIMASA Act, Cabotage Act among other international conventions which Nigerian is a signatory, the Act he said does not contain any express provisions nor legalise the use of armed guards by on ships or by seafarers.
He declared that: “The question as to the legality or otherwise of armed guards on merchant vessels in Nigeria is quite straight forward, under Nigerian law, armed guards are not permitted on merchant vessels within the Nigerian waters”
“In considering the legality or otherwise of the use of armed guards on Nigerian flagged vessels, important consideration is given to the legal regime of the Flag State (Nigeria) vis-a vis the legal regimes of other State(s) in a given situation. Fundamentally, the State has the primary duty of securing lives and properties, investments including vessels within its territorial jurisdiction. The State also has monopoly over the use of force to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wild life of Nigeria”
“Considering the necessity of protecting merchant vessels in Nigeria, NIMASA currently collaborates with the Nigerian Navy to provide maritime security within the powers of the Nigerian Navy under the Armed Forces Act. This collaboration has resulted in a number of activities”
Malami stressed further that there should be no express authorisation of vessel owners to have private armed guards on board. He said that in Nigeria, individuals are not permitted to own or use fire arms except license is sought and obtained in respect of such firearms. He said giving such permit is expressly prohibited under Section 17 of the Private Companies Guard Act.
“It is therefore illegal for ships within the Nigerian waters to have armed personnel on board. For clarity, armed guards in this context are private persons who are not members of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but who are nevertheless armed”.
Last weekend’s attack also comes barely 48 hours after the Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA) raised alarm over increasing rate of attacks on ships at berth, especially in Lagos ports.
The NPA had equally alleged internal collaboration in most of the attacks, charging terminal operators, especially; ENL terminal to scrutinize their internal security systems.
Speaking at the Quarterly Stakeholders Meeting of NPA in Lagos also last week, the Managing Director of the authority, Hadiza Bala Usman also noted that despite several warnings to shipping companies to put in place holding bays for empty containers, most of them have turned deaf ears and refused to comply.
She was represented at the meeting by the Executive Director, Marine and Operations, Dr. Sekonte Davies.
According to her, some of the attacks on vessels discharging at the port come from miscreants occupying shanties and illegal structures around the ports.