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Private ends in maritime piracy legislation in Nigeria

Obinna Emmanuel Nkomadu


A major maritime security problem in the Gulf of Guinea is the widespread proliferation of incidents of maritime piracy attacks off the coast of Nigeria. One reason cited is the lack of adequate domestic legislation including definitions of the elements of piracy. The drafters of the legislation recently passed by Nigerian government entitled: ‘Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act, 2019’ (SPOMO Act), copied verbatim the definition of piracy contained in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The legislation states that piracy consists of any ‘illegal act of violence, detention or depredation committed for private ends’. It is notable that neither the legislation nor UNCLOS contains any provision defining or explaining the phrase ‘private ends’. There is no Nigerian law or case law that defines the meaning or provides any explanation of that phrase which has led to various interpretations among scholars, stakeholders and judges. This paper attempts to explain acts that may be considered as amounting to private ends in the legislation. The explanations flow from the preparatory work of piracy legal framework of UNCLOS carried out in the 1920s, which the drafters of the legislation copied.