The Federal Government says it has successfully defended its rights in the dispute between the country and Switzerland in an International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
Adetayo Apata, the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice said this at a news conference on Tuesday in Abuja.
Apata said that the tribunal delivered the important ruling in favour of Nigeria in an order on Provisional measures announced on July 6, 2019 in the `M/T “San Padre Pio” case (Switzerland V. Nigeria).
The case is on Nigeria’s arrest and detention of a Swiss-flagged Oil Tanker, its Crew and Cargo for violating Nigeria’s laws by engaging in ship-to-ship transfers of fuel oil for use in hydrocarbon production activities in Nigerian waters without the required permits and authorisation.
He hailed the tribunal’s decision as a `Vindication of Nigeria’s right to proceed with prosecuting these serious violations of Nigerian law, which is a key part of its efforts to combat maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Nigerian Navy on Jan. 23, 2018 arrested the vessel for engaging in ship-to-ship transfers of fuel at odd hours of the night, not obtaining the pre-requisite permits or authorisation contrary the Navy regulations.
“The Vessel, Crew Members and Cargo were subsequently handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for prosecution.
“The EFCC is currently prosecuting the case at the Federal High Court in Port-Harcourt, while the Captain and the three other crew members were subsequently released on bail.”
He said that Switzerland had on May 2019 challenged Nigeria’s enforcement actions by instituting arbitral proceedings under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea.
He said: “Switzerland also requested that the tribunal order the suspension of Nigeria’s criminal prosecutions of the vessel’s master and officers, not institute news proceedings an d that the Cargo, Crew and the Vessel be released.
“But the tribunal in its July 6, 2019 order rejected Switzerland’s request for the suspension of the prosecution.”
The SGF also added that the tribunal also conditioned the release of the vessel and the criminal defendants, who are Ukrainian Nationals upon Switzerland’s posting of a bond or other financial security of about 14 million dollars.
He also said that the tribunal ordered Switzerland to give unequivocal assurances in the form of an undertaking binding under international law that guarantees their return to Nigeria should Nigeria prevail in the arbitrary proceedings.
He said that with the conclusion of the provisional measures phase before tribunal, the parties will now proceed to adjudicate the underlying dispute at the Annex Seven (7) Arbitral Tribunal.