By Segun Adekunle
“The evil that men do lives after them”. These are the golden words of William Shakespeare, a foremost English dramatist and playwright. On the flip side of this maxim is, “the good that men do lives after them”. However, some have gone on to modify this beautiful line by saying that, “the good that men do lives with and after them”. The steps taken by the maritime industry stalwarts in particular, and the government in general, is gradually steering Nigeria and consequently, the Gulf of Guinea, away from the piracy radar of the International Maritime Bureau. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) is the umbrella body that is saddled, amongst others, with the coverage and reporting of incidents of piracy, hijacking and other types of attack on merchant ships in different parts of the world.
From the foregoing, I can say for certain that the reports the IMB churns out regarding different pirates attack, enclave or cocoon in different parts of the world, including the Gulf of Guinea (GOG) where Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is located, have not been a good one. In 2020 alone a total of 14 piracy incidents were reported by the IMB to have happened in Nigeria’s EEZ of the GOG alone. The sad part of this is that 2020, even witnessed a major decline in pirates activities. This could have been attributed to a lot of factors, including the Covid 19 outbreak that saw a significant drop in the number of vessels traversing and calling at various ports in the world.
The IMB reports and piracy radar mark Nigerian waters as one of the major piracy hotspots of the world. This is owing to the fact that a huge number of vessels and crew get attacked when calling at different parts of the country. The creeks of the Niger-Delta, Lagos port, Bonny river amongst others are some of the major pirate enclaves in the Guinean Gulf. However, certain steps taken by the government of the day will help see a steady decline and steep fall in this negative report that has bedeviled the Nigerian maritime space for some time.
It will be recalled that a federal high court sitting in Lagos recently sentenced 10 pirates involved in the 2020 hijack of a merchant vessel to 12 years imprisonment each. This is a major landmark judgement in Nigeria where various bills and acts were recently passed into law criminalizing the activities of sea pirates on our waters. Flashback to May 2020, the Nigerian Navy rescued 18 seamen of the Chinese fishing vessel ‘FV HAILUFENG II’ from the deadly grip of pirates. Ten suspects were thereafter charged to court in Ikoyi where various counts of piracy were brought against them. The offence contravenes the provision of section 3, 10, and 12 of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act 2019. This judgement once again proved that Nigeria has every will, body language and gesture to tackle the hydra headed problem headlong. This great gesture in itself will definitely reduce the occurrence of pirate attacks on our waters. This is because prior to 2019 we never had a hard and fast way of prosecuting pirates or acts of piracy, but with the practicalization of this law, the good therein will definitely live beyond the government of the day and be domiciled in our national life.
Another significant good that will continue to live with us as a people is the recent launch of the ‘deep blue project’ by President Muhammadu Buhari. It is no longer news that on Thursday June 10 2021, the anti-piracy assets were launched in Lagos. This project saw a synergy comprising the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Army, The Department of State Services and Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Air Force undertaking simulation exercises for the purpose of ensuring effective preparedness for any stint of pirate attack. This multifaceted project, which is first of its kind in west and central Africa, has also helped announce a new horizon in Nigeria’s maritime activities to the world. With synergies and activities like these, Nigeria as a country is ever ready to give the pirates a run for their money and a devastating bloody nose. Nigeria’s waters will be more secured with the deployment of these equipment as more vessels will find our waters attractive.
It is important to note that the project takes a holistic approach of tackling piracy on the Sea, Air, and Land. The non-human parts of this project are broadly spread into three parts with the sea assets comprising two special mission vessels, and 17 fast interceptor boats, amongst others. The air assets include two special mission aircraft for the real time survey of Nigeria’s EEZ, three special mission helicopters for search and rescue (SAR) operations and four unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It will definitely not be a gainsay that these conscious efforts by the government of the day will help place the activities of these water evils called pirates on a major check as vessels calling on our waters will have a very huge sense of security.
On a final note, tackling piracy requires a huge combined effort on the parts of various agencies of government. The various enforcers of the law need to ensure that the time of responding to distress calls from merchant vessels under any form of attack or any other condition is as quick as possible. Our courts and judicial system also need to speedily try, convict and discharge judgement on suspected pirates. With a mix of activities by the different agencies of government, pirates and piracy will definitely be a thing of the past on our waters and national life.
Adekunle Segun, ISPS, DPA, MLC, is a maritime industry professional based in Lagos, Nigeria; he can be reached on +2348163769265 (SMS only) or email@example.com