Against the backdrop of spike in piracy attacks and other maritime-based criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea, President Goodluck Jonathan and other African leaders who attended the just-concluded meeting in Yaounde, Cameroun, which focused on maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea, have declared that the scourge will soon end.
Jonathan, who spoke at the end of the summit of Heads of State and Governments of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), which Tuesday in the Camerounian capital, told journalists, shortly before returning to Abuja, that the declaration stemed from the conviction of his peers, who were now more committed and determined to tackle the excesses of piracy.
He said that, since the highest number of attacks take place on the Nigerian waters, his administration will expand its cooperation with other African countries to check the illicit activities that are hampering economic growth of the region.
Jonathan, who commended President Paul Biya of Cameroun for hosting the summit, said: “The key thing about this conference is the issue of piracy and armed robbery in our coastal waters of which of course you know we have quite a number of attacks in Nigeria because of the volume of oil industry activities and the trade being a very big country.
“The only way we can contain it is for the countries within the Central African region and West African region to come together.
“Already, Nigeria and Benin Republic have been partnering but we need to expand across the coast, the West African coast and the Central African coast. So this is the beginning of the end of these excesses of piracy, so we are quite pleased with the conference.”
A communique at the end of the summit, read by the Camerounian Minister of External Relations, Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, indicated that the member states of the three blocs – ECOWAS, ECCAS and GGC – had agreed on a coalition for a multi-lateral assistance amongst all the 25 members.
The leaders agreed on “harmonisation of members for information sharing on security issues within the Gulf of Guinea and constant convening of conferences on maritime security,” as well as “joint cooperation by the military of the three blocs patrol and to secure their borders.”
Mbonjo said: “They agreed to put up a mechanism for the three blocs to work together for strategic activities to check piracy.
“They agreed to put in place structures that will enable the military personnel of the three blocs to work together with one as well as individual countries,” Mbonjo said.
In his closing remarks, Biya said: “What we have come up with today is within the context of African solidarity. “The agreement is to provide a secured space for easy circulation of goods within those regions.
“The meeting has achieved one of our aims to make progress on fighting piracy.
“Though maritime piracy is difficult to stop, we are going all out to reduce it drastically.”
The conference host expressed satisfaction with the unity of purpose demonstrated to address the issues of security and posterity within the context of the Gulf of Guinea protection, thus commending his peers.
President Idriss Deby of Chad, who moderated the closing ceremony, praised Biya for bringing all of them together, noting that “after all, all of us depend on the sea for survival.”
The Minister of Interior, Mr. Abba Moro, disclosed that Nigeria and Benin Republic had agreed to construct border posts that would clearly define the entry into Nigeria and exit out of Nigeria and vice vasa.
“What it means is that the frequent harassment that occurs within the Seme border will no longer occur. We all agreed that it will be unnecessary to allow a situation as it were to degenerate to the one that will lead to confrontation between two brotherly countries,” Moro said.
On her part, the Minister of State for Defence, Mrs. Olusola Obada, expressed concern that ships from Europe and other parts of the world were gradually becoming afraid to come to the waters of the three blocs as a result of the high rate of sea piracy and other crimes.
“And that is why it is of extreme importance that the synergy and the cooperation between member states of these three blocs should take place,” Obada said.