The insecurity situation on Nigeria’s territorial waters is worsening, according to the American Government.
Consul-General of the United States Embassy in Nigeria, Mr. Jeffrey Hawkins, said yesterday at the last conference session of the Nigeria Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) 2013 that increased pirate attacks and armed robbery at sea in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea remains a major disincentive for foreign direct investment and a major burden to ships which have to travel through the region in convoy. “While there are a variety of obstacles that forestall the realization of Nigeria’s full maritime potential, I’ d like to focus today on one area that to us is particularly and persistently troubling the growing incidence of criminal activities off of Nigeria’s coast, and what seems to be the ineffectual security response to those activities. Both the available data and the anecdotal evidence suggest that the situation is only worsening, and we have difficulty seeing how it is going to get better in the near-term without major improvements in institutional collaboration, and a marked increase in political will.
“The International Maritime Bureau recently reported that sea piracy around the globe dropped substantially in 2012, to its lowest level in five years. Yet at the same time, the frequency of maritime attacks in the Gulf of Guinea has increased and increased significantly. The 1MB reported 10 attacks off Nigeria in 2011, then 27 attacks in 2012 – and most people we’ve talked with have suggested the 1MB figures only account for a portion of actual incidents,” Hawkins said while making a presentation as a panel member during the last conference session of NIMAREX 2013.
He was speaking on the theme Doing Business in the Nigerian Maritime Industry.
The US Consul-General said that from cargo theft to kidnapping for ransom, the Gulf of Guinea is becoming known as a very dangerous place to do business.
“It is becoming known as a place where you must sail in convoys, and where you must hire armed guards – who themselves are Nigerian police officers or sailors, and theoretically should have responsibilities other than serving as hired guns. The Gulf is becoming known as a place where you must prepare your crew to be attacked at any time.
“It is becoming known as a place where maritime security enforcement is weak, when it exists at all – we’ve heard many accusations that entities involved in providing maritime security collude in some of the illegal activities that take place off of Nigeria’s coast. When the very bodies that are expected to protect and defend the maritime commerce that constitutes such an essential component of this country’s economic livelihood are instead perceived to be undermining it, I think we can all agree there’s a huge problem,” he stated.
He said that loss to the nation as a result of the criminal activities is more than the $7 billion usually bandied by representatives of the Federal Government.
“This is not just lost revenue that would otherwise enrich some faceless foreign corporation. This is revenue that could and should benefit the Nigerian people. And, yes, this is revenue that should reward vessel owners for their investment – and encourage them to invest more.
“We all recognize that this is not a simple problem to address, but it has been addressed success fully – if not necessarily solved – in other parts of the world. On an operational level, there are lessons to be learned, by emulating what works elsewhere in the world. In East Africa, for example, piracy attacks are down significantly. What have they done to accomplish this? The International Maritime Organisation credits, among other things, effective coordination and communication among those providing security in the Gulf of Aden,” he said.
The US Consul-General said that there is no effective collaboration mechanism for the various maritime actors in Nigeria, on both a strategic and tactical level.
He said that intelligence about the location of ships conducting suspicious activities is not shared with those who could carry out operations to board and inspect the ships.
“This is a recipe for failure. When players on the same team don’t talk with each other, nothing productive can be accomplished,” he added.
Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.