The Federal Government has handed over the fishing vessel, Marine 707, suspected to be carrying out illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea to the Ghanaian authorities for further investigation and possible prosecution.
However, Nigeria also handed over 51 crew members including 48 Ghanaians and 3 South Korea nationals to the Ghana and Korea respectively.
The vessel, which had authorisation to fish in Ghana and Benin waters, was arrested by the Nigerian Navy last month around Lagos waters with her Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched off after being suspected to be used for piracy or being used as a mother ship to conduct piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. It was initially handed over to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) after preliminary investigations by the Navy.
While speaking during the official hand over of the Ghanaian flagged vessel and the crew to the respective authorities, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said that the Navy-NIMASA partnership, now hinged on intelligence, has put Nigeria on a pedestal of winning the war against piracy and other illegal acts at sea.
Jamoh, who was represented by the agency’s commander, Maritime Guard Command, Commodore Aniete Ibok, disclosed that though preliminary investigations could not establish that the vessel and her crew were directly linked to piracy, however, the vessel still ran foul of international laws for shutting down its Automatic Identification System (AIS) 36 times in the last six months, three of which were done in the Nigerian waters.
“We are handing over this vessel to the Ghanaian authorities in the spirit of bilateral cooperation both countries enjoy. We have done our preliminary investigations and we are yet to establish any concrete evidence against the vessel. But again, we would not know what she would be doing whenever she turns off her AIS, which occurred 36 times without being logged in her record book in line with international protocols and three of these were in our domain. However, in the spirit of brotherhood that Ghana and Nigeria enjoy, we are handing over the vessel to Ghana for further investigations,” he added.
The NIMASA boss further warned that individuals or organizations thinking of perpetrating any form of illegalities in the Gulf of Guinea should be ready to face the full wrath of the law with the anti-piracy law in place along with the NAVY- NIMASA partnership that is waxing stronger with major focus on security in the Nigerian maritime domain and the entire Gulf of Guinea.