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Seized vessels: Navy advocates maritime offenders’ court, laments maintenance cost

Posted by on November 24, 2021 0


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The Nigerian Navy has said the cost of maintaining ships seized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Committee in its custody was placing a burden its finances, calling for a special court to try maritime crimes.

The military outfit faulted the slow prosecution of maritime cases in the conventional courts, noting that the delay was leading to more expenditure on the maintenance of vessels in its custody.

The PUNCH had exclusively reported on Monday that some of the ships seized by the EFCC had begun to sink in the waters across Nigeria, while many of those temporarily and permanently forfeited by suspected corrupt persons are damaged due to lack of maintenance.

Sources at the House of Representatives had told our correspondent that the Nigerian Navy, which was mandated to oversee the seized, recovered or forfeited assets, had no specific budgetary provision to maintain them.

The House’ Ad Hoc Committee on Assessment and Status of All Recovered Loots Movable and Immovable Assets from 2002 to 2020 by Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria for Effective Efficient Management and Utilisation had recently embarked on oversight visit to such assets for an on-the-sight assessment.

Some members of the committee, who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, expressed their displeasure with what they found out during the tour.

On Monday, the Nigerian Navy called an emergency meeting with the committee on the matter after The PUNCH report.

At the meeting, the Chief of Operations, Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Abraham Adaji, called on the National Assembly to establish a maritime court for maritime cases to ensure speedy dispensation of justice.

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Adaji stated that the regular courts are delaying the cases relating to the seized vessels in Navy’s custody, while lamenting that their maintenance was affecting the outfit’s finances.

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He said, “Once there is any suspicion of commission of crime, the vessels are seized by patrol units and 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 is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, but we also have dealings with NIMASA (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency), sometimes also with the NSCDC (Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps) and the police.

“The main challenge is that when these arrests are made and we hand over to agencies like the EFCC. The EFCC doesn’t have a holding bay for vessels.

“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 do not even arise. We take a bond and whenever the crew or the vessel is required in court, it will be made available.”

Chairman of the committee, Adejoro Adeogun, had earlier said the lawmakers visited the Navy because the committee was set up by the House to respond to public clamour for explanation of the status of the recovered loot, especially proceeds of crimes in Nigeria. He noted that the committee had been working on the matter since about seven months.

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A member of the committee, Ali Wudil, said the House would consider the request for the establishment of the admiralty or maritime court.

Another member of the committee, Timehin Adelegbe, said the Navy should not be subjected to unnecessary expenditure in the course of their maintenance of seized vessels that are supposed to be in the custody of other government agencies.

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