In an effort targeted at collective synergy to curb the alarming trend of criminality in the Gulf of Guinea, the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy and the Danish Government recently organised a maritime security summit-cum-training, Chiemelie Ezeobi reports
Lying across 19 coastal and island states, the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) coastline, stretches from the waters off Senegal to the south of Angola, and is essentially an enviable treasure trove of rich resources as its waters covers 2.3 million square kilometers (888,000 square miles) and borders more than a dozen countries.
Comprising 26 countries grouped into two Regional Economic Communities (RECs) namely -Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS, 11 states with the return of Rwanda) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS; 15 states), it covers a surface area of 11,755,258 square kilometers, including a coastline of over 6000 kilometres from Senegal to Angola.
Resource-wise, the GoG countries have an estimated 24 billion barrels of crude oil reserves, that is five per cent of global reserves at five million barrels of crude oil per day. Also, the GoG is also the primary conduit of international trade and is central to the economy of the associated regions. It is increasingly looked upon today as resource provider and critical contributor to national growth and prosperity of the several nations lining its coasts and even those landward and with no shared boundaries.
But despite its rich throve of resources, the GoG waters face diverse maritime threats. It’s more alarming given that the maritime environment is one of the mainstays of the Nigerian economy.
It is a given that these diverse threats of insecurity has over the years been a considerable source of concern as the nation’s network of oil and gas installations as well as associated shipping have been threatened by maritime crimes such as piracy, sea robbery, Crude Oil Theft (COT), illegal oil bunkering, smuggling, Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, militancy and kidnapping for ransom.
As part of measures to tackle these menace, the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy and the Danish Government recently organised a maritime security summit-cum-training at Wheatbaker Hotel in Ikoyi, Lagos.
It brought together key actors and representatives from Nigerian maritime law enforcement agencies. The participants were drawn from the ministries, department and agencies (MDA) majorly saddled with the responsibility of curbing maritime crimes and administration of justice.
In his keynote address, Denmark Ambassador, His Excellency, Mr. Jesper Kamp, said looking at the current maritime security challenges being experienced in the region, meetings of this nature, among maritime security actors, have become very crucial, as they present the platform to deliberate on measures contributing to enhanced maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said: “The number of piracy attacks which were recorded in 2020 in the Gulf of Guinea paints a very bleak picture of the security situation in the Gulf of Guinea. The pirates has to a great extent shifted the focus towards kidnap for ransom and the assaults are becoming more well-coordinated with the pirates boarding the ship and even in one incident, the MV Mozart, able to breach the vessel’s citadel, a practice which is unusual in piracy attacks in the region.
“Very tragically, a crew member died during the attack and 15 other crew members were kidnapped. All 15 have since been released. The kidnap for ransom demonstrates the changing trend in the attacks on vessels, which requires enhanced and coordinated approach from the region’s maritime actors to effectively respond to these challenges.
“The piracy problem presents a serious threat to the economies of the countries along the Gulf of Guinea. It also puts the lives of national and international seafarers at risk. This affects international trade conditions for the fishery sector, the offshore oil sector and collectively, all these affect each and every one of us present here today; the consequences include higher prices for commodities, increase in price of petroleum products, buying of clothes, toys and school books for our children.
“A further implication is the derivate effects of pirates financing illicit activities on land, which in return disturbs and fluctuates the security situation in the region even more.
“Ensuring enhanced maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea is key to enhancing economic growth for the region with the vast majority of trade going by sea. Presently, several countries are investing comprehensively in harbours and infrastructure. Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire among others have ambitious goals of increasing capacity of sea-borne trade within the next 5-10 years.
“This is necessary to support the rapidly growing West African markets. Yet, a safe environment and the freedom of navigation through the Gulf of Guinea is fundamental to ensure these ambitious goals bring further prosperity to the region!”
Challenges in the Gulf of Guinea
Noting that Nigeria is a critical partner to many security processes in the ECOWAS sub-region, KAIPTC Commandant, Major General Francis Ofori, stated that “the Gulf of Guinea sub-region is at a critical juncture in its socioeconomic and political development. On one hand it is well endowed in terms of natural resources, strategic location and large market and has great potential for development and peace. On the other hand, it is confronted with a number of challenges that render its rather fragile institutions and post-conflict societies vulnerable to political instability and peace.
” One of these threats over the last decade is maritime piracy, armed robbery and transnational organised crimes. The ECOWAS and ECCAS in a bid to stem the tide of these threats coalesced under the Yaoundé Architecture in efforts to coordinate their response to the insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea.
“Since 2013, the GoG processes are gradually converging to ensure a safer maritime domain together with their partners. Nonetheless piracy and other maritime crimes continues to pose a significant threat to shipping interests and stability in the sub-region. In 2020, the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly, challenged traditional methods of state response to insecurity. It also presented opportunities for maritime actors to think outside the box in their response to maritime insecurity.
“The International Maritime Bureau in its first three months report of 2021, indicates that the Gulf of Guinea continues to be particularly dangerous for seafarers with 43 per cent of all reported piracy incidents occurring in the region. In addition, the region accounted for all 40 kidnapped crew incidents, as well as the sole crew fatality.
“They further noted, that “Pirates operating within the Gulf of Guinea are well-equipped to attack further away from shorelines and are unafraid to take violent action against innocent crews”.
On March 11, 2021, pirates kidnapped 15 crew from a Maltese flagged chemical tanker 212nm south of Cotonou, representing the furtherest recorded kidnapping.
“In another incident, a fishing vessel hijacked on 8 February 2021 was used by pirates as a mother vessel to facilitate other attacks. These and many similar attacks and especially the increasing level of violence and crew fatality indicates that maritime insecurity in the GoG is constantly fluid and response mechanisms must be very dynamic.
” It is also important to note, that Coastal response agencies are increasingly able to respond to such attacks as exemplified by the rescue of the Hailefeng I1 in May of 2020. More of such coordinated responses will greatly reduce the incidence of maritime piracy and armed robbery in the sub-region.
“In all such incidents, timely reporting through the relevant channels such as the ICC and MMCs as well as improved knowledge sharing and increased collaboration between maritime response authorities greatly reduces the risk of maritime insecurity.”
Essentially, the course builds on the series of trainings which are focused on developing critical skills and competencies needed to counter prevalent maritime threats that continue to plague our maritime environment and the Gulf of Guinea generally.
For five days, the participants will be exposed to current knowledge on maritime security in the GoG as the course was designed with inputs from maritime security experts in the sub-region and reflects the most current realities on the ground.
On the KAIPTC training, the ambassador noted that it was developed through research and dialogue conducted by the KAIPTC over the last two years, adding that they conducted field research with a broad variety of stakeholders in both ECCAS- and ECOWAS countries.
“With the findings from these missions, the experienced team of the KAIPTC engaged senior maritime officials from ICC, ECOWAS, ECCAS, UNODC, Interpol, national Maritime Authorities, MOC and MMCC’s in rotating technical meetings in discussing the specific needs for the content of this particular course. This course therefore reflects the current realities of maritime insecurities in the Gulf of Guinea.
“This training is aimed at enhancing your knowledge on the region’s maritime security challenges and the regional arrangements, which have been put in place to ensure enhanced collaboration and response to maritime security threats in the region.
“I must say your experience and in-depth knowledge will help enrich the course and I will therefore entreat all of you to share your experiences during class discussions. I am confident that the knowledge you will acquire – and share – through the training will improve the important roles you are playing in your various capacities to support maritime security initiatives both at the regional and the national level. This, I believe, will go a long way to contribute to improved and sustainable security in the Gulf of Guinea waters.
“I acknowledge the incessant effort by the KAIPTC to contribute to the implementation of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct through training, research and policy dialogue and by so doing, support regional efforts to enhance maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea region. There is no gainsaying that the KAIPTC is a recognised ECOWAS Centre of Excellence.
“As a long-standing partner, when Denmark were to start the planning process for the first Maritime Security Program for the Gulf of Guinea in collaboration with a local partner-institution, the choice of KAIPTC was settled on easily. Time has only confirmed this choice to be the right one. I will hence like to congratulate the Commandant, the entire KAIPTC fraternity and the Nigerian (Navy) for the good work they are doing to contribute to peace and security in Africa.”
He posited that earlier this year, the Government of Denmark appointed a special envoy on maritime security, adding that the current ambassador to the Netherlands, Mr. Jens-Otto Horslund, have been given the task of both convening the Danish Maritime industry, European and international partners as well as nations in West and Central Africa in the combined efforts of ensuring a safer maritime domain in the Gulf of Guinea.
Essentially, he noted that safeguarding maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea is a shared responsibility between national, regional and international maritime players. Thus, he said the Government of Denmark is committed to supporting this agenda of enhancing maritime security in West Africa through the Danish Maritime Security for the Gulf of Guinea.
“We work through partners such as the KAIPTC, UNODC and with capacity training of the Navies in both Ghana and Nigeria. As the problem of maritime insecurity is regional, the Embassies of Denmark in Ghana and Nigeria work in close collaboration.
“In the Danish Maritime Security Program, the Government of Denmark is supporting in areas of legislation, maritime strategies, research, training and operational planning and response including capacity development of Special Forces within the navies of Ghana and Nigeria.
“With your support and cooperation and those of other key shareholders in the region, and the international community, we will continue the efforts in Ghana, Nigeria and other countries in the region to support both national and international initiatives to further strengthen Gulf of Guinea regional and national maritime security frameworks. “
Corroborating, KAIPTC Commandant said, “It is indeed very significant that we are organising the fourth training in the capacity building courses on Developing Maritime Security Culture in the Gulf of Guinea in Nigeria. This course is part of the outputs of a three year project on enhancing regional research, capacity building and convening of stakeholders towards a safer maritime domain in the Gulf of Guinea.
“This course offers the opportunity for personnel to learn from other agencies and also understand the current trends in maritime security in the GoG. It is our hope that with a shared maritime understanding of the GoG, you will be able to effectively combat maritime piracy and transnational organised crime.
“As I intimated earlier, this course is the fourth in the capacity building outputs of the project. The pilot course was held in Ghana at Takoradi and received very good feedback. The second course took place in Cotonou in Benin with the third course taken place in Accra. In all, 75 personnel have had their capacities strengthened so far. It is our hope that through such training courses, the capacities of key actors in maritime security will be strengthened so that there will be a joined up response in combating maritime insecurity in the GoG.
“This course has been designed with inputs from maritime security experts in the sub-region and reflects the most current realities on the ground. It is our hope that it will provide a useful periscope through which you can view your mutual collaboration in ensuring maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. We are also delighted to welcome you into the KAIPTC alumni fraternity.
”The KAIPTC as one of the three ECOWAS centers of excellence continues to provide globally recognised capacity for all actors on African peace and security through training, education, research, and policy dialogues to foster peace and stability in Africa.
“This project falls within our vision and mission as it seeks to promote a safer maritime domain in the Gulf of Guinea through the development of knowledge based-research products; institutionalising a convening platform for dialogue among stakeholders and developing the capacity of maritime practitioners in the Gulf of Guinea. Once again, we are grateful to our partners, the Government of Denmark and the Inter-Regional Coordinating Centre (ICC) for their continuous support in this endeavour.”
Crucial Role of Maritime Security Governance
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Western Naval Command (WNC), Rear Admiral Jason Gbassa, noted that the platform provided by the training would strengthen law enforcement capabilities relative to the Nigerian maritime environment.
The FOC, who was represented by the Chief Staff Officer, Naval Training Command (NAVTRAC), Rear Admiral Monday Unurhiere, further noted that although human exploration and exploitation of the oceans are dated, recent international efforts to improve the security of the global commons gained renewed vigor at the turn of 21st century.
“Notable events responsible for this include the September 11 attacks in the United States and high spate of piracy off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden. While several challenges militating against the success of maritime security governance have been identified, sea blindness and poor maritime culture have special implications.
“Lack of awareness of the importance of the sea means that it can be an uphill struggle to gain political attention or resources for revising maritime security policies and capacity building. The related question of maritime culture takes a crucial dimension when the role values and beliefs play in decision making is factored in. One of the outstanding management gurus of the last century, Peter F Drucker is famed to have said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.
“Applied to maritime security governance, one could state that failure to give attention to the impact of culture in any maritime security policy or strategy could jeopardise the effectiveness of that strategy. It is in the light of this that I am excited about the potentials of this capacity building effort to draw attention to the seemingly innocuous but crucial role of cultural considerations to maritime security governance.
” It also promises to stimulate discussions on how the cultural challenges could be overcome. I am confident that the coursework and scheduled practical demonstrations as well as experience sharing would address relevant concerns and bring about the desired outcomes.
“Consequently, I wish to sincerely appreciate the KAIPTC, United Nations Development Programme and the Government of Denmark for providing this platform to strengthen law enforcement capabilities relative to Nigeria’s maritime environment. To the esteemed resource persons who have volunteered their time to share from their experience in this training, we are grateful,” he posited.