President Muhammadu Buhari has called for improved action against piracy, human trafficking and other criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea.
Buhari, who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, made this call in Abuja on Thursday at the fourth Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC).
Speaking shortly after the confirmation of his appointment as the new Chairman of GGC, the President stressed the renewed commitment to deal with emerging socio-economic and security challenges facing the Commission.
He noted that the members could achieve this by collectively taking measures to check violations of domestic and international treaties in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said: “In conformity with the theme of the fourth Ordinary Session which is, ‘A Vibrant Gulf of Guinea Region for Sustainable Development’, let us renew our commitment to making the Gulf of Guinea more effective and a truly vibrant partner in all our efforts, be it at the regional, national or international level, to ensure a zone of peace, security and sustainable development for our countries, our peoples and other stakeholders in the region.”
Buhari listed the challenges facing the commission to include a rise in maritime insurance premiums for vessels coming into the Gulf of Guinea, increased threats and reduced commercial traffic to the region as well as unregulated and unreported fishing along the Gulf of Guinea.
He also charged the member-states to take measures to reduce pollution and environmental degradation in the Gulf of Guinea.
Buhari, however, commended individual efforts of some of the member states who improved the capacities and capability of their Navy and other relevant organisations to enable them perform their duties more effectively.
He also commended the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) for establishing maritime regional centres for maritime security.
“This effort is capped by the establishment of the inter-regional coordination centre based in Yaoundé, Cameroun as the collaborative link between the two maritime regional centres led by ECOWAS and ECCAS,” he said.
Speaking further, the President called on the member-states to always fulfill their financial dues and obligations to the Commission to ensure effective operation and performance of the CGC.
He also congratulated Ghana for being a new member of the Commission, while commending the staff of the GGC secretariat for their untiring efforts in sustaining the Commission
Earlier, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Mungonu (rtd) had stressed that the current situation in the Gulf of Guinea region, especially “the surge in illegal activities of piracy, illicit drugs, arms and human trafficking, illegal immigration, environmental pollution and degradation calls for greater attention to be paid by members countries to curbing these activities.”
Monguno noted that maritime security and economic prosperity were interdependent and mutually re-enforcing.
According to him, improvement of maritime security could positively contribute to increased national, regional and continental stability and, by the same token, make a sustainable contribution to global security.
He said Nigeria had continued to develop the capacity of its armed forces, particularly the Navy and other maritime agencies to effectively tackle these challenges.
Monguno said: “Indeed, the surveillance capabilities of the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency are being developed to ensure a secure environment within the domain as well as in the Gulf of Guinea.
“Similarly, the Nigerian Navy has been maintaining a strong presence in the maritime area with a band configuration and operations capabilities to deal with surface, air and underwater threats. In addition, the Nigerian Navy has been cooperating with neigbouring countries and allies in Nigeria’s maritime area of interest with a view to pursue security and safety.
“Other measures being implemented include: employment of the robust maritime domain awareness capability through the employment of the original maritime awareness capability and the Falcon Eye Project; activation of a Naval Task force to combat piracy and related attacks on shipping and oil and gas infrastructure; the establishment of 37 check points by the Nigerian Navy to ensure continuous presence and monitoring of crude oil thefts in the Niger Delta area; the conduct of regular sea exercises by the Nigerian Navy such as exercise Eagle Eye, to improve the state of readiness and proficiency; Finalisation of National Integrated Maritime Security Strategy which has also necessitated the development of national maritime policy by the Ministry of Defence.
“The signing of agreement in 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari with the government of Equatorial Guinea on the establishment of the combined maritime policing and security parole community to help in curbing maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.
“Nigeria has also prepared the draft Anti-Piracy Bill to give effect to the relevant provisions of the United Nations Conventions of the Law of the Sea of 1982 and the Convention for the Suppression of Illegal Acts at Sea 1982 and its protocol of 2005 to punish and deter piracy and other maritime crimes.
“Nigeria has also ratified The United Nations Organised Crime Convention which enjoins parties to criminalise practices and combat that subject human beings to all forms of exploitation.
“It is important to note that the security challenges confronting the member-states of the Gulf of Guinea Commission, which have continued to impact negativity on the development of the region, calls for concerted and unrelenting efforts by all stakeholders.
Also speaking, the Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Florence Adenike Ukong said the secretariat had proposed a plan of revitalisation of the commission which among other structural and cultural measures has set up five specialised committees.
Ukong said the first step is the peace and security committee, which is expected to address issues of related to drug trafficking, arms trafficking, maritime piracy, human trafficking, development of security architecture for the maritime space, illegal bunkering, money laundry and other financial crimes.
She said: “Immigration specialised committee. This is expected to deal with situations leading to illegal and irregular immigration, irregular requests for political asylum and issues related to the demarcation of borders among the states of the region.
“Oil and environment specialised committee: to address issues related to oil exploitation so that best practices can be applied in region as well as the issues of environmental pollution.”