Nigerian court has announced the first convictions under a new anti-piracy law, ensuring the world’s shipping fleets that legal reforms will normalise the situation in the Gulf of Guinea.
The three men fined by the court in Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s oil hub, on August 11 were among nine accused of hijacking the tanker MV Elobey VI off Equatorial Guinea in March and securing a $200,000 ransom for the crew.
The merchant shipping industry has long demanded Nigeria to undertake strict measures in the area, which has been dubbed “pirate alley.”
It accounts for over 90% of maritime kidnappings globally, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), with attacks on all kind of vessels from oil platforms to fishing boats.
The court fined the three men convicted 10 million naira ($26,300) each for each of the two counts of piracy to which they pleaded guilty.
The remaining six pleaded not guilty and their trial continues.
Nigerian navy spokesman Commodore Suleiman Dahun (pictured) said the convictions were the first conviction under the new law, which passed last year to open legal way to prosecute pirates.
Commodore added that the fines were levied in lieu of prison sentences.
While the Gulf of Guinea is streched along more than a dozen West African countries, experts underline the pirates typically come from Nigeria’s oil-rich but poverty-stricken Delta region.
So far the assaillants rarely faced judicial consequences as piracy was not defined illegal under Nigerian law.
A total of 49 crew were kidnapped in the Gulf in the first half of this year, compared with 27 last year, according to IMB figures. It has aslo underlined that attackers were also more daring and going further out to sea than previous years.