The problem of maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea is real. These statistics will paint the picture better: In 2016, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) recorded 53 piracy attacks or attempted attacks in the Gulf of Guinea representing 28% of worldwide attacks– including 36 for Nigeria.
The Gulf of Guinea accounted for more than 50% of the global kidnappings for ransom, with 34 seafarers kidnapped out of a total of 62 worldwide. The region is regarded as a high risk area attracting war insurance premium.
It also recorded the maximum of piracy incidents which total 34 and occurred mostly in Nigeria. Angola had 5, Congo had 5, Benin had two, Togo had one and Ghana had only one incident. The picture is disheartening.
Last year, 10 incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crew members in or around Nigerian waters were reported. 36 cases of piracy with no vessels hijacked occurred in the Gulf of Guinea. Globally, 16 vessels reported being fired upon last year –including seven in the Gulf of Guinea.
The fact that Nigeria is strategic in solving the maritime security issues in the Gulf of Guinea is not lost on the authorities. This is acknowledged in the global shipping industry.
Being the biggest economy and most populous nation within the region and accounting for 65% of cargo generated within the region bring home the need for Nigeria to take the lead. Other factors, which put Nigeria in the forefront of the fight, include the facts that: 65% of cargo coming into Gulf of Guinea end up in Nigeria; it accounts for 50% – 60% major maritime security incidences that occur in the Gulf of Guinea; it has the highest military contingent and might within the region; it has huge deposit of oil and gas making it a place of interest for international energy dynamics; and Nigeria has one of the largest delta areas of the world characterised by thousands of creeks. For these reasons, therefore, Nigeria is pivotal to the security and stability of the Gulf of Guinea.
We also realise the fact that maritime insecurity has economic, social and environment implications in the GoG Region.
On the economic front, it leads to loss of oil revenue to illegal local/international cartel. There is threat to commerce as 90% of the external trade in the region depends on shipping and this endangers the growth of the local economy.
The Gulf of Guinea is a shipping transit hub thus remains under threat. This threat also leads to inability to meet the needs of the masses because of the region dependence on imported goods and export of raw materials and natural resources. The fishing industry which supports the GDP of the region is also affected. Between January 2016 and December 2017 nine vessels were arrested for illegal fishing on Nigeria’s territorial waters.
The social sides include: arms and drug smuggling and human trafficking. It is empirically proven that there is a correlation between maritime insecurity, growing unemployment and youth restiveness in the region. Also, we can’t divorce it from inter-communal conflicts and dislocation of communities. There is also agitation by seemingly marginalised sub-region within the regions constitute security risks, the Niger delta area of Nigeria being a classical case.
The environment also suffers in terms of destruction and pollution of the marine ecosystem leading to loss of livelihood. Between January 2015 and December 2017 1446 illegal refineries were destroyed, 95 barges stealing crude and several wooden boats were destroyed with attendant consequences on the Environment.
In response to this challenge, Nigeria has come up with multi-dimensional interventions, which include a review of local and international laws concerning maritime crime. This is ongoing. NIMASA is currently pushing for the enactment of the anti-piracy law. When passed to law by the National Assembly of Nigeria, the country will be the first in the region to have a dedicated anti-piracy law.
Working with the Nigeria federal ministry of justice and Nigerian Navy we are have developed the Harmonised Standard Operating Procedure for arrest and detention of vessels involved in illegal activities. There is also a joint initiative by the ministries of transportation and defence to strengthen response capabilities of the military through the deep BLUE PROJECT to be executed by NIMASA.
We must not forget the presidential intervention on maritime security through building of regional coalition and corporation. NIMASA recently signed an MOU with Ghana maritime Authority and SIERRA Lone maritime Authority to further strengthens regional collaboration.
Other steps taken by our maritime administration to ensure our maritime domain is safe for business includes but not limited to ;Establishment and implementation of the ISPS Code; effective enforcement of Port and Flag State Control; an MOU with the Nigerian Navy and Air force to increase response capacity; FEC has approved the acquisition of special mission aircrafts, helicopters and vessels with communication equipment; capacity building programme by Ministry of Transportation and NIMASA; and Operation Prosperity by the NIMASA/Nigerian Navy.
We are also acquiring assets to ensure maritime safety. These include C4i (Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence); integration of our maritime domain awareness asset with FALCON EYE of Nigerian Navy (Over the Horizon Radar System); aircrafts and vessels with communication equipment; two Special Mission Aircrafts; three Special Mission Helicopters; two Special Mission Vessels; four units of UAVs; and 17 Fast Patrol Boats.
The country has also strategically intervened in the GoG region by leading the establishment of ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Security Strategy (EIMS); establishment of Inter-Regional Coordination Center (ICC) in Younde Cameroon, an initiative of ECOWAS/ECCAS/GoG Commission; the establishment of African Integrated Maritime Security Strategy (AIMS); leading ZONE E multinational maritime security outfit in Cotonou (4 nations standing maritime security outfit); active in Cote d’ivoire based Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA); coordinating Heads of Navies of the region; and housing one of the five designated Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres in Africa (RMRCC).
Other Interventions that have also come into play are ratification and domestication of relevant International Treaties Safety, Security and Marine Environment Management, ratification of thirty-five IMO Conventions/ Protocols, including the ILO MLC 2006, gazetting of about thirty-four maritime Regulations pursuant to the Merchant Shipping Act 2007 and the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act 2007; and domestication of 12 relevant maritime safety conventions of the IMO which are necessary for ensuring regional maritime security and safety.
Of course, we set forth at dawn by installing satellite surveillance systems, Coastal Radar systems, and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System GMDSS amongst others. The Anti-Piracy bill which is currently undergoing legislative procedures is aimed at criminalizing piracy and all maritime crimes in the country’s maritime domain with attendant punishment enshrined in the Nigerian legal framework.
The implementation of an Integrated National Surveillance and Waterways Protection Solution with command and control infrastructure in at our agency is part of Nigerian government deep blue contract to enhance security in the Gulf of Guinea. Most importantly is that our deep blue Project fits into NIMASA’s Total spectrum maritime security strategy which is built on four pillars of situational awareness, response capability, law enforcement and regional cooperation.
The deliverables from the deep blue project are expected to bolster Nigeria’s maritime security architecture and increase monitoring and compliance enforcement within the Nigerian waters and its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The fact that the Nigerian Navy has stepped up its activities in the Nigerian creeks which has seen the figures of illegal refineries destroyed rise exponentially from 97 in 2015 to over 1221 in 2017 is a big step forward.
Significantly, eight relevant conventions and protocols on marine environment have also been domesticated in order to ensure a clean marine environment. Efforts are being made by the Safety Administration through the Federal Ministry of Transportation for the domestication of other ratified Conventions.
For further development, we look forward to having improved profiling capacity and information sharing on maritime criminality and illegality, enhanced Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) and surface/air patrol capabilities, functional legal framework, skill development of Maritime Law Enforcement Agents (MLEAs), integration of national inter-agency efforts, adoption of a broadened concept of security to harmonise the pursuit of security outcomes, with external players approaching security cooperation transparently and inclusively and employment of good governance as an element of security and an enabler of durable security outcomes.
We trust that continuous collaboration amongst partners across our continent, improved profiling and information sharing on maritime criminality and illegality, enhanced maritime domain awareness and surface to air patrol capabilities, functional legal framework, integration of national inter-agency efforts, youth empowerment programmes amongst others are factors that can help bring solutions to the issues surrounding insecurity in the maritime space.
The director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, recently delivered this speech at Chatham House, London, United Kingdom