Ambassador Raff Bukun-Olu Onemola
Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative
Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations
New York, NY
25th January, 2011
I thank the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Legal Issues Related to Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, Mr. Jack Lang, for his comprehensive briefing and in-depth analysis of the legal options available to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia. We appreciate the additional comments provided by the Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and thank the representative of Somalia for his participation in this meeting.
The increasing industrialization of the phenomenon of piracy and its rapid expansion in the
Gulf of Aden endangers the integrity of the nascent authorities in Somalia and Puntland. It also threatens not only to erode the tenuous gains made by the international community in the Horn of Africa region, but also provide a fertile environment for extremism and violence.
We therefore share the Special Adviser’s sense of urgency on the need for swift action to address the threat. We also agree with his basic premise that convergent measures will be required to curb piracy and prevent its occurrence. To that end, we welcome his recommendations for improving the operational component of counter-piracy, such as extending the scope of on-board self-protection, strengthening and adapting naval operations, and intensifying monitoring of the Somalia coastline. We also welcome the judicial and correctional components of counter-piracy, particularly the measures to overcome the legal obstacles to the prosecution of piracy suspects.
We believe, however, that the effectiveness of these measures is contingent on the elimination of the immediate constraints on the coordination of the international prosecution of pirates and closer transnational partnerships. Additionally, initiatives to suppress piracy and protect vulnerable ships passing through the waters off the coast of Somalia, such as the European Union’s Operation Atalanta, NATO’s Allied Protector and Ocean Shield operations, and Combined Maritime Forces, must be streamlined in a coherent framework.
As we have heard, nine out of 10 pirates are not prosecuted due to the absence of a clear international legislative framework. Although article 101 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and resolution 1918 (2010) both define piracy as a criminal act, few States of the region have incorporated this definition into their criminal code. We therefore call for a coherent international legislative framework to address these enduring gaps and uncertainty in international law.
In our view, the Security Council has established precedent in this area. In resolution 1950 (2010), the Council underlined the importance of continuing to enhance the collection, preservation and transmission of evidence of acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia to competent authorities. Further agreements relating to the exchange of prisoners, a common definition of piracy, uniform evidence collection measures and jurisdictional standards are necessary.
Nigeria notes the Special Adviser’s suggested cluster of measures for preventing piracy. Going forward, the Council must provide support for an internal mechanism to complement the efforts of the international community to deal with the menace. We therefore support the recommendations of the Special Adviser on the need to revive and develop domestic industry and to reform domestic legal institutions. Nigeria’s long-held view is that piracy is a symptom of the internal strife within Somalia and the absence of governance structures. A long-term solution to piracy hinges on improving Somalia’s stability and helping Somalis to forge a State with viable governance institutions capable of ensuring respect for the rule of law and of promoting peace and reconciliation. We renew our call for generous contributions to the Trust Fund for this purpose.
We must, however, acknowledge the tumultuous political, economic and legal environment in which this must take place. We note with growing alarm the increasing sophistication of pirates. In 2009, revenues from piracy in Puntland were approximately $82 million, compared to $16 million for all of Puntland. The traditional industries of fishing and livestock trading have been decimated. Additionally, the once robust commercial international shipping lanes have been significantly impaired by piracy.
Consequently, there is an urgent need for the penalization and prosecution of piracy. Clear and enforceable laws must be promulgated by the legislature and enforced by a fair and impartial judiciary and police force. As a first step, we encourage the Somali Parliament to enact a statute criminalizing piracy. States in the region should also take similar action under their domestic law, in accordance with resolution 1918 (2010). Considering the negative effects of illegal fishing and maritime pollution, Nigeria fully supports the Special Adviser’s recommendation on the establishment of an independent investigation committee on allegations of illegal fishing and dumping of toxic waste in Somali waters.
Piracy is one of the many hurdles the Council must clear on its path to stabilize Somalia and the Horn of Africa. The Special Adviser’s report (S/2011/30) is a meaningful contribution to the current efforts to address the problems. In our view, his constructive suggestions require timely and more in-depth consideration. The measures outlined by the Legal Adviser will be further enhanced by extensive international support and coordination through regional arrangements.
Finally, resolving the problem off the coast of Somalia will require tackling the root causes of political instability in Somaliland.