Law enforcement agencies have become worried about recent reports of increasing piracy attacks on the Gulf of Guinea.
A Chief State Attorney at the Office of the Attorney General, Mrs. Frances Ansah Mullen, is therefore advocating stronger collaboration between member states along the Gulf of Guinea.
She said littoral states in West and Central Africa must coalesce their effort if the menacing threat of piracy is to be defeated.
Mrs Mullen was speaking during a stakeholders’ forum organized by Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) in partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to discuss proposed amendments to the country’s piracy laws.
Ghana piracy legislation has been found to be outdated and therefore incapable being relied on to adequately prosecute offenders.
Mrs. Mullen emphasized that Sections 193 and 194 of Ghana’s 1960 Criminal and Other Offences Act which define piracy has been overtaken by events, and is inconsistent with contemporary definition of the crime in Article 101 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It is, therefore, difficult, even impracticable, to successfully try a piracy case in Ghana. Indeed the state has never successfully prosecuted a piracy case.
“The first test case we had in Ghana was that of MT Marian which initially involved the arrest of 10 Nigerian pirates,” she said.
The police had conducted their investigations and sent the dockets to the AG’s department for prosecution. The State Attorney said, after studying the dockets, “we decided to use two of them as witnesses and then go ahead to prosecute the remaining eight. They were detained for a while and upon considering our laws and the fact that Ghana does not have an extradition treaty with Nigeria we sent information to Nigeria to help us prosecute the pirates,” she added.
The incident leading to the arrest of the pirates took place in the early hours of January 17, 2015, when the Nigerian-flagged MT Marian oil tanker was attacked. While the assailants were busily siphoning the crude oil from the tanker into a barge, the ship’s owners somehow managed to send signals to the Ghanaian Navy who swooped in and successfully arrested all 10 suspected pirates.
“Unfortunately, we had no option but to write to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Interior for the accused persons to be deported via Interpol. So I think that going forward, we need to enhance co-operation between stakeholder states to enable us prosecute effectively,” she stressed.