The Nigerian Navy has stated that maintenance of seized vessels is affecting its finances due to huge amounts of funds being expended on their maintenance and operations to keep them in good shape.
The Chief of Operations, Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral A.O Adaji, who made the disclosure while addressing members of the House of Representatives Adhoc Committee investigating the status of recovered movable and immovable assets during a visit to the Navy in Abuja yesterday, lamented that court processes are delaying the disposal of seized vessels in their custody.
He, therefore, called on the lawmakers to provide legislation for the establishment of an Admiralty or Maritime Court to deal exclusively with maritime cases for speedy dispensation of justice.
Adaji commended the lawmakers for enacting the anti-piracy law, which according to him, has helped to a couple of ‘bad guys’ in jail.
He said: “The procedure adopted is that once there is any suspicion of commission of crime or illegal activities, the vessels are arrested by patrol units and then a preliminary investigation is carried out. As soon as a case is established, the vessel is handed over to the appropriate prosecution agency.”
A lot of times, it’s the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), but we also have dealings with NIMASA, NSCDC and the police.
“The main challenge is that when these arrests are made, more often than not, we hand over to the EFCC. The EFCC doesn’t have a holding bay for vessels, and in some instances, they also refused to take the crew, because to secure what I call a day in court takes time. So, they too are shying away from the responsibility of feeding those who are involved in criminal activities. Of course the vessels, it’s understood, they cannot keep.
“But we are hoping that we will grow to that level where when we arrest a vessel, a Maritime Court or an Admiralty Court could ask the vessel for a bond, such that all these shenanigans in terms of holding the vessel and all that do not even arise. We take a bond and whenever the crew or the vessel is required in court, it will be made available. So, it is a lingering problem, but we are hoping that a time will come when Nigeria will have something like an Admiralty Court or a Maritime Court that is solely dedicated to maritime offences.”
Earlier, the Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee, Hon. Adejero Adeogun, said they visited the Navy because the committee was set up by the House in response to public clamour to understand the state of recovered loots, especially proceeds of crimes in Nigeria, adding that the committee has been working in the past six to seven months.
According to him, “We’ve visited at least two naval formations in Lagos within the Western Naval Command and MMS Pathfinder in Port Harcourt, where we inspected vessels that were seized. In the course of all these inspections and all that, we found out that there are few things that we need to interact with the leadership of the Navy, so that we can understand each other so that we might be able to actually help this country better.
“The first has to do with the case of our investigations, two things came to mind. Firstly, we realised that recovered loots were supposedly used for investment. We want to be sure that these things were actually utilised so that there will be funds that were supposedly being borrowed, and persistently for the navy, we are actually done. Is the navy to receive the equipment? Were there facilities provided so that if borrowing funds that are supposed to be borrowed are utilised?”
Responding to the request for the establishment of the Admiralty or Maritime Court, a member of the committee, Hon. Ali Wudil, said the House will consider the request.