By Samson Echenim
…as Dakuku says Nigeria ccounts for over 65% of cargo generated from the region
As sea crime incidences soar in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG), President Muhammadu Buhari has called for cooperation of the international community in ending the menace, which the International Maritime Bureau says $7.2 billion global shipping loss so far in 2019.
This is as Dakuku Peterside, director general of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said the country was keen to drive anti-piracy action because it is a significant destination in the international and domestic shipping map, accounting for over 65 percent of cargo generated from the GoG region and with rich endowments in oil and gas reserves.
Speaking at the opening of the global maritime security conference in Abuja on Monday, Buhari said the his government was determined to rid the country’s waters of all forms of criminalities, stressing that with the cooperation of the international community, the entire maritime domain of the GoG would be free from piracy.
The conference, the first on the GoG, was hosted by the Federal Ministry of Transportation, in partnership with the Nigerian Navy, to find solution to the security issues in the GoG.
Piracy, armed robbery, and kidnapping for ransom continue to serve as significant threats to vessels transiting or operating in the GoG, where Nigeria occupies a central position leading to placement of war risk surcharge accummulating to N67.5 billion on goods coming to Nigeria in 2019 alone.
According to the Office of Naval Intelligence’s (USA) “Weekly Piracy Reports,” 72 reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea occurred in the GoG region this year as of July 9, 2019.
“Attacks, kidnappings for ransom (KFR), and boardings to steal valuables from the ships and crews are the most common types of incidents with approximately 75 percent of all incidents taking place off Nigeria. During the first six months of 2019, there were 15 kidnapping and 3 hijackings in the GoG,” the naval intelligence said.
Most KFR operations in the GoG occur around the Niger Delta and target vessels (tankers, tugs, offshore supply vessels, fishing vessels, and cargo vessels) with expatriate crew due to their potentially high ransom value. Motherships have been used to support KFR operations up to 150 nautical miles offshore. Criminals/armed KFR groups have been known to fire upon targeted vessels prior to attempting to board them. KFR groups generally kidnap two to six high value crewmembers to include the master, chief engineer, and any Western crewmembers.
There were, however, several incidents over the past year where more than ten crewmembers were kidnapped during a boarding. Kidnapped crewmembers are normally taken ashore in the Niger Delta region where KFR groups demand ransom payments in exchange for the safe return of the crewmembers.
Buhari however, noted that there had been a reduction in the rate of insecurity in the GoG.
“The convening of this timely conference here in Nigeria is an indication that we will not relent in efforts to rid our waters of the piracy scourge. To succeed in our objective, a collective effort from all stakeholders represented here today is essential,” said Buhari who was represented at the event by Ambassador Zubir Dada, minister of state for Foreign Affairs.
The President said as Africa proceeded with the second phase of negotiations for the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA), safety and security of sea transportation were critical to seamless trade and effective economic integration.
“Our approach, therefore, towards the realisation of maritime security in the region and other vital sea lanes is contingent on our collective effort and ability to put in place international, continental, regional and national frameworks and resources in cooperation with critical stakeholders,” Buhari said.
The President noted recent efforts by Nigeria to secure its waters, including the enactment of a standalone antipiracy law, in line with the requirements of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the first of its kind in West and Central Africa, ratification of international treaties, and the establishment of an Integrated National Surveillance and Waterways Protection infrastructure.
Dakuku, in his welcome address, advocated a more profound global response to the issues of piracy and maritime criminality, saying this is the essence of the conference.
He said, Nigeria has taken the initiative by convening this global conference to examine the maritime security challenges in the region. Nigeria is keen to drive this initiative because it is a significant destination in the international and domestic shipping map, accounting for over 65 percent of cargo generated from the Gulf of Guinea region and with rich endowments in oil and gas reserves.
He identified the objectives of the conference to include defining the scope of coordinated regional responses to maritime insecurity vis-à-vis intervention support from external actors and partners, evaluating the relevance and impacts of the various interventions, and moving towards policy harmonisation and practical implementation through regional integration and cooperation as a principal method for delivering effective and efficient security in the region.The Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ete-Ibas, said drawing from the total spectrum maritime strategy, the Nigerian Navy had sustained the operational concept of Maritime Trinity of Action comprising surveillance capabilities, response initiatives and law enforcement to combat maritime crimes.
Secretary General of IMO, Mr. Kitack Lim, in his goodwill message delivered by Assistant Secretary General Lawrence Barchue, stated IMOs support for member-statesefforts to enhance maritime security.
“Working together is something that IMO is fully onboard with; together we can team up to deploy resources from all stakeholders in order to comprehensively address maritime insecurity within the region,” he said.
Other speakers at the event include Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Salihi (Rtd); Executive Secretary, Gulf of Guinea Commission, Florentina Adenike Ukonga; Chairperson, African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat; as well as the ECOWAS and ECCAS Presidents.