Eromosele Abiodun writes that the report by the International Maritime Bureau on rising cases of piracy in Nigeria focused on government agencies responsible for tackling the menace
Recently, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) released a report naming Nigeria as one of the hotspots for sea piracy.
The IMB in the report said: “Of the 27 seafarers kidnapped worldwide for ransom between January and March 2017, 63 per cent were in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria is the main kidnap hotspot with 17 crew taken in three separate incidents, up from 14 in the same period in 2016.
“All three vessels – a general cargo ship, a tanker and a bulk carrier were attacked while underway 30-60 nautical miles off the Bayelsa coast. Three more ships were fired upon at up to 110 nautical miles from land, and many other attacks are believed to go unreported.”
Director of IMB, Pottengal Mukundan, said: “The Gulf of Guinea is a major area of concern, consistently dangerous for seafarers, and signs of kidnappings increasing. IMB has worked closely with the response agencies in the region including the Nigerian Navy, which has provided valuable support, but more needs to be done to crack down on the area’s armed gangs. We urge vessels to report all incidents so that the true level of piracy activity can be assessed.”
IMB said guns were used in 18 of the incidents and vessels were underway in 17 of the 20 reported attacks.
IMB further stated that 39 of the 49 crew members kidnapped globally occurred off Nigerian waters in seven separate incidents. Other crew kidnappings in 2017 have been reported 60 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria.
“In total, 92 vessels were boarded, 13 were fired upon, there were 11 attempted attacks and five vessels were hijacked in the first nine months of 2017, “it stated.
The flagship global report noted that, while piracy rates were down compared to the same period in 2016, there is continuing concern over attacks in the Gulf of Guinea and in South East Asia.
Since the report was released a number of attacks have been recorded, showing that government agencies responsible for the monitoring and foiling of attacks are clearly failing in their responsibility.
Put simply, Section 22 (P) of the NIMASA Act provides opportunity for the agency to provide maritime security. The obvious question then will be why the agency is not doing what is necessary to put an end to piracy in Nigerian waters. For those who don’t know, the NIMASA only last year awarded a surveillance contract worth billions of naira, a move that was intended to check raising cases of piracy and other vices in Nigerian waters. This has not happened and no one seems to care. Late last year, the United States of America, through its Maritime Administration, warned ships to be wary when approaching Nigerian waters.
“Two incidents have been reported in the Gulf of Guinea in the past six days. The first reportedly occurred south of Port Harcourt, Nigeria at 0600 GMT on October 21, 2017. The second reportedly occurred in the vicinity of 03-35.50N 006-49.20E at 1905 GMT on October 25, 2017; both incidents have been confirmed, “it said in a report.
“The nature of the first incident was piracy and kidnapping; the nature of the second incident was piracy,” it noted.
Quoting the latest quarterly report from the IMB, the US Maritime Administration stated that “the latest quarterly report from the International Maritime Bureau notes that a total of 20 reports of attacks against all vessel types were received from Nigeria, 16 of which occurred off the coast of Brass, Bonny and Bayelsa. In general, all waters in and off Nigeria remain risky, despite intervention in some cases by the Nigerian Navy. We advise vessels to be vigilant, “it concluded.
The US advisory report to ship masters and owners further warned that ship transiting Nigerian waters to be cautious and seek further information, even as it stated that the alert subsists until November 2, 2017.
Late last year, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside confirmed the U.S maritime administration report that Nigeria water is deadly and unsafe.
Dakuku stated this against the backdrop of Nigeria’s loss of a seat in Category C of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), noting that country’ insecure and unsafe water contributed immensely to the election loss.
Speaking to Journalists at the end of a meeting of the ‘G7 Friends of Gulf of Guinea Group’ in Lagos, he explained that G7 Friends of the Gulf of the Guinea Group is one of the international initiatives Nigeria is leveraging on to strengthen fight against piracy and other criminal activities on the sea.
The NIMASA boss said the impression of the international community is that Nigeria was not doing enough to tackle the challenge adding that it contributed immensely to Nigeria losing the election.
“I cannot deny the fact that the issue of piracy may have had some impact on the elections. Our colleagues did not have much information about what we were doing to tackle piracy and there was a general impression that Nigeria was not doing enough to tackle the issue of piracy,” he said
Also, speaking on the amount spent on the lost election, the DG said a whopping N100million was expended on Nigeria failed election bid.
“NIMASA spent less than N100million for the IMO campaign and it was only three delegates that attended the conference from NIMASA, “he said.
He explained that countries like Singapore, China, and United Arab Emirates attended the IMO with highest number of delegates.
Speaking further on why Nigeria lost out of the IMO Election, Dskuku identified late preparations, delay from the Federal Executive Council and recession as another reason why the country lost.
“Also, late preparations and the fact that we did not go round other countries like others did, it would have cost plenty of money but we are not willing to spend such money. We had considered economic factors in context of our political aspirations.
“It is Nigeria that ran for IMO category C, and for you to use the name Nigeria, you must get the approval of the man who is managing all the country, the president just got elected, so it would have gone through a process, we have lost some time but the approval eventually came, after we got the approval, there are also budgetary processes to go through, even if the approval was given two years ago, we also need to do the background work to get budgetary provision for it before we begin the campaign, all of these things affected our early preparations.
“But now that we know better, we are starting the next preparations immediately, because we deserve a place in the council of the IMO, these are what we meant by late preparations, “he explained.
However, to find a lasting solution to piracy, Dakuku explained that the G7 Friends of the Gulf of the Guinea Group is one of the international initiatives Nigeria is leveraging on to strengthen the fight against piracy and other criminal activities on the sea.
“What you are seeing now is an international dimension of the fight against piracy and maritime crime which is a new strategy. G7 is an initiative of the group towards finding lasting solution to the issues of security in the gulf of guinea.
“For the first time, they decided to take the program outside the continent of Europe and the lot fell on Nigeria because they think the gulf of guinea suffers the peculiar problem and criminal activities on sea.
Also speaking, Chairman Senate Committee on Navy, Isah Hamma Misau encouraged the group to sustain its intervention beyond the direct anti-piracy policies to ensure that appropriate resources and taxation flow into the region, so that public health, education and employment are equitably offered in the region.
He said that this would help address the underlying socio-economic root causes of piracy in the region.
He added that to boost maritime development on the Gulf of Guinea, there is also the need to strengthen maritime institutions.
Meanwhile, Nigeria will spend $186 million to combat piracy in a bid to safeguard its waters and vessels moving in and out of the country.
Transport Minister, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi revealed this in a speech at Nor-Shipping’s inaugural Africa Podium in Oslo, Norway recently. The fund is meant to acquire three new ready-for-war ships, three aircrafts, 12 vessels and 20 amphibious vehicles to combat the menace of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Amaechi allayed potential investors’ fears of growing security concerns in Nigeria’s seaway amid the rise in attacks by pirates.
He revealed that over the next six months, the Nigerian government would give additional training to its navy, while providing technical and further support to patrol vessels in the region.
“Rest assured, in six months you will no longer be harassed in our waters,” he told the delegates. Amaechi said piracy is not the only issue currently impacting the progress of the maritime sector in Nigeria.
While admitting that eradicating this growing menace was the main priority, Amaechi was keen to point out that Nigeria was also making significant strides in its bid to improve its creaking transport infrastructure.
“All you hear about is efforts to stamp out corruption, but we are working extremely hard to develop transport infrastructure,” he added.
Whether this be roads or railways, the development of ports, the dredging of inland waterways and coastal regions, he said there was huge investment and resources earmarked for projects now and in the future.