The Nigerian Navy (NN) has charged the nation’s judiciary to expedite action and ensure that suspects arrested by the Navy over sea robbery, oil bunkering and other environmetal and criminal offences in the country’s maritime dormain, get speedy trial.
Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, gave the charge during a lecture which he delivered on the vision and mission of the NN to participants of Course 6 at the Naval War College, on Friday in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.
The chief of naval staff stressed that while the Nigerian Navy and maritime law enforcement agencies have made a giant stride in apprehending and prosecuting sea criminals caught committing offences along the maritime domain, there still exists some loopholes.
The CNS stated that such loopholes in the country’s judicial process was the endless trial periods for maritime crimes which has continued to be exploited by criminals.
Gambo noted that the situation has led to prolonged litigations and several abandoned vessels across Nigerian Navy bases.
In his words, Gambo said: “The effect of this lengthy trial processes to the Nigerian Navy is evident in instances where out of the 488 vessels arrested between 2015 till date, 234 were handed over to prosecuting agencies.
“Yet, only 52 have been successfully prosecuted, while others are still in the Nigerian Navy custody.
“Beyond the logistic and manpower committed to this process, the Nigerian Navy expend enormous resources to preserve and keep over 100 detained vessels afloat.”
The chief of Naval staff stressed that due to the harsh operating environment, the Navy found it worthy to streamline her structure and operations in line with total spectrum maritime strategy.
The CNS averred that legal framework would be necessary for expeditious prosecution of maritime crime in order to dissuade criminals and lessen burden on the Nigerian Navy on custody of arrested vessels.
While giving reasons on why the Navy cannot prosecute sea criminals despite the fact that it is one, which arrest the sea thieves for various maritime offences, the Navy boss stated that unlike the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Police and other security agencies that have the constitutional powers to prosecute, the Navy is not permitted to prosecute maritime cimes in civil court.
In his words the CNS said, “The service rely on lawyers from the Ministry of Defence and other security agencies, while retaining services of private lawyers to prosecute maritime criminals.
“Even though the Navy has an established directorate of legal services with the current strength of over 600 qualified lawyers.
“In the last four years, the Navy has lost a significant number of cases due to non-diligent prosecution.
“The service has also expended almost N300million on services provided by private lawyers at the expense of Navy.”
Meanwhile, the chief of naval staff thereafter commissioned the Navy remodeled mini-shopping centre complex, swimming pool and restaurant worth millions of naira at the Eastern Naval command headquarters in Calabar, stressing that it was one of the ways of bringing succour to its personnel who have to go out of the headquarters to buy thier needs at supermarkets and restaurants outside the eastern naval headquarters.