By Ignatius Ushie
The Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, has declared Nigeria’s unwavering commitment to its leadership role in the war on piracy and maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea region, an area widely considered the global challenging maritime crime base in Africa.
Dakuku stated this in a keynote address delivered at a symposium on Security in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) at the headquarters of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in London recently.
The meeting, according to statement made available to Transport Day was jointly organised by IMO, Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO), International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA), International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), and the International Chamber of Shipping. It had in attendance MDs and CEO’s of top multinational shipping, oil and gas, and logistics firms.
Dakuku said the GoG countries were facing serious security challenges that had affected their economies severely and, therefore, needed global support and cooperation to tackle the problem.
He, however, said the location of the Gulf of Guinea held enormous advantages, as it holds a significant percentage of the world’s total oil and gas reserves as well as rich deposits of solid minerals, such as diamond, bitumen, copper, uranium, granite, quartz, lead, fluorite, and marble.
Already, Nigeria has committed to the hosting of a Global Maritime Security Conference (GMSC), which comes up in the country’s capital, Abuja, from October 7 to 9. 2019.
The NIMASA boss noted that the conference will afford the international community a platform to develop actionable strategies to put an end to piracy and other security threats in the African geological and maritime region.
Dakuku who is also Chairman of the Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA), noted that the Gulf of Guinea occupied a strategic location in international seaborne trade. It is home to two regional economic blocs: Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), comprising 26 countries. According to him,
“It is, therefore, seen as a resource provider and critical contributor to national growth and prosperity of the nations lining its coasts and even those inward and with no shared boundaries, due to the access it grants to them,” he said.
He disclosed that the region’s waterways were a key navigational route for international commerce, connecting the Far East to countries in the North and South of the Atlantic. “It is the hub of extensive Trans-Atlantic trade linking Africa with Europe and the Americas,” he said.
Dakuku highlighted factors that made Nigeria strategic in the fight against maritime crimes in the GoG region to include being the country with the highest military contingent and might within the region, and a huge deposit of oil and gas, which makes it a place of interest in international energy dynamics. Others are the geo-strategic location of Nigeria, and the country’s big deltas, which are the largest in the world, with thousands of creeks.
The NIMASA DG said being the biggest economy and most populous country within the region, accounting for over 65 per cent of cargo generated in the area, Nigeria occupied a vantage position to lead efforts to solve the maritime security challenges in the region.
While acknowledging that maritime insecurity had economic, social and environmental implications for the region, Dakuku told the international community that Nigeria was leaving no stone unturned in the attempt to overcome the challenges, adding that it was this determination that led to the decision to approach the menace through a total spectrum maritime strategy. The strategy involves law enforcement, regional cooperation, response capability building, and enhanced maritime domain awareness for all organs of government involved in maritime security.
He declared that with the new initiatives, kidnapping and other violent crimes in the GoG region could become history in a matter of months.
Highlighting the importance of regional and international cooperation in the fight against maritime crime, Dakuku stated, “We have no option but to work together, but we cannot have imposed solutions…
“NIMASA will also be hosting a Global Maritime Security Conference in October to seek tailored short and long term solutions to strengthen regional and international collaborations in the Gulf of Guinea.”
He noted that the implementation of an integrated national surveillance and waterways protection solution with command and control infrastructure in the Agency was part of the Nigerian government’s deep blue contract to enhance security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Dakuku said it was Nigeria’s interventions that led to the establishment of the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Security Strategy (EIMS) and Inter-Regional Coordination Centre (ICC) in Yaoundé. He also disclosed that Nigeria played a leading role in the establishment of the African Integrated Maritime Security (AIMS).
At the operational level, Dakuku stated that NIMASA, through collaboration with the Nigerian Navy in 2012-2013, established “Operation Prosperity”, a security taskforce, among others, which had helped to reduce criminal activities in the region. Other initiatives include the establishment of a legal framework to fight maritime crimes through an anti-piracy bill. “The bill, when signed into law, will bring to bear appropriate sanctions on offenders and deter perpetrators of maritime crimes,” he assured.
Nigeria will be hosting the global maritime security summit, themed “Maritime Security and Global Trade Facilitation,” as part of its commitment, along with its partners, to stamping out piracy in the region.
Thanking the international bodies and other regional partners for their efforts to tackle maritime insecurity, especially in the Gulf of Guinea, Dakuku called for more support in the fight against piracy and maritime crimes.
NIMASA is the Nigerian Government Agency responsible for ensuring safety and security on the country’s waterways, among other mandates as enshrined in the NIMASA Act, 2007.