From today, Monday October 7, 2019 and for three days, the world will literally turn its attention on the Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, where a global maritime security conference is holding.
It is a high level international conference meant to sensitise the global maritime community on the searing insecurity rampaging the Gulf of Guinea.
The world has no choice than to pay undivided attention to this conference due to the strategic importance of the Gulf of Guinea to the world economy.
Also of greater concern to the world is incalculable damage which the activities of pirates and other criminal elements in the Gulf of Guinea have wrought on the global commerce.
That is why we are least surprised at the level of interest of the global maritime industry in this conference as exemplified by its impressive attendance.
We are equally aware of the reasons why Nigeria has to take the initiative among the West and Central African States within the topography of the Gulf of Guinea to rally the support of the global maritime community against the scourge in the region.
Of the eight countries that border the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria is the hardest hit by the activities of criminality in the region due to its(Nigeria) massive maritime potentials and endowments.
According to the annual reports on pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea by the International Maritime Bureau(IMB), which spans a 10-year period of 2009-2018, Nigeria recorded the highest pirate attacks of 159 and 76 attempted attacks within the same period.
This represents over 80 percent of combined fatalities in other countries of Benin Republic, Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana and Togo during the period under review.
This development has not only adversely affected the maritime trade in Nigeria but has equally given the country’s maritime waters a notoriety for being one of the most dangerous in the world.
We therefore consider it appropriate for Nigeria to seek global cooperation in tackling the scourge in the Gulf of Guinea.
But what is the level of commitment of global community to tackling the scourge in the Gulf of Guinea?
The insecurity in the region is of global phenomenon which is globally acknowledged as a huge threat to global commerce.
Efforts by various regional and global collaborations to address the menace, to us, have been half-heartedly done as the insecurity in the region has grown in leaps and bounds in the last decade.
In 2011, Nigeria and Benin Republic initiated what they called “Operation Prosperity” to ensure the maritime environment in the region is secured.
There was another regional effort that gave birth to Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre Gulf of Guinea(MTISC-GOG) which in 2016 metamorphosed to Maritime Domain Awareness for trade -Gulf of Guinea.
There was also a Yaoundé Code of conduct adopted in June 2013.
The international interventions in the menace have been a mere expression of concerns over increasing numbers of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea.
This was exemplified by the United Nations’ Security Council resolutions of 2011 and 2012 which were instigated by Benin Republic and Togo, the International Maritime Organisation(IMO) strategy outlined in 2017 to enhance maritime security in the sub-region, the 2014 strategy adopted by the European Union that was based on Yaoundé code of conduct as well as the Interpol interventions through different initiatives to improve the capabilities of the local police forces to tackle piracy in the region.
To us, these efforts were not backed by serious actions, the laxity which we consider as what has emboldened the criminals in the Gulf of Guinea.
Even though, piracy is a well-funded and sophisticated criminal activity which thrives in the region, we believe a well-coordinated and determined regional and international collaborations should have greatly decapitated the menace.
Surprisingly, the more the global maritime community says it is addressing the problem, the bigger it becomes.
We hope the Abuja Global maritime conference would not be another flash in the pan .
It is our wish that the Declaration made at the end of the conference will be backed with determination and will power by the International Maritime community to minimise the activities of criminals in the region.
If the ascendency which the piracy has gained in the last decade in the Gulf of Guinea is to be dismantled or whittled down, governments of the countries bordering the troubled zone should show more than a passing interest in tackling the menace.
Experts have often described as “sea blindness” the pervasive poor maritime knowledge among the political leadership of the strategic importance of the Gulf of Guinea which they blamed for the low level of political will and commitment to tackle the issue of insecurity in the region.
The government of Nigeria has exhibited the symptoms of such ” sea blindness “ despite the fact that the country is hosting the global summit.
We are yet to comprehend the reason why the Federal government should fix its extraordinary session of Federal Executive Council(FEC)meeting for today, the day the global conference opens in Abuja.
The meeting which was scheduled for the preceding Saturday, was shifted to coincide with the opening ceremony of the summit.
This presupposes that the President of the host country, the Minister of Transportation who convened the global summit and other key government officials will not, at least, grace the opening session except shifted or delayed.
What message is Nigerian government sending to the global maritime community about its commitment to tackling the insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, notwithstanding the passion displayed by its relevant agencies to wipe out the scourge.
It confirms the argument of experts that the government of the host countries of the Gulf of Guinea have not displayed enough commitment towards fighting the menace of insecurity in the region.
Despite the potent danger which the activities of the criminal elements in the Gulf of Guinea pose to the maritime industries of their respective countries, these leaders have shown limited interests.
This poor attention given to this issue has been traced to the different political, social and economic challenges they grapple with in their respective countries which have deflected their full attention to tackling the scourge in the Gulf of Guinea.
It is when the regional leaders, especially the political leadership of the contiguous countries in the Gulf of Guinea, show strong commitment and will power to end the menace that other external powers will complement their efforts with equal seriousness.
We urge the global maritime community, especially the governments of the contiguous countries in the region, to use the opportunity offered by the Abuja Global maritime conference to harness, coordinate and harmonise global efforts towards the extermination of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea.
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