The Federal Government has expressed its support for regional initiative geared toward eliminating the scourge of piracy and maritime crimes, especially in the Gulf of Guinea
This is contained in a statement by the Head, Corporate Communication Team of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Hajia Lami Tumaka, on Wednesday in Lagos.
According to the statement, the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr Dakuku Peterside, made the remark at the on-going International Maritime Organisation (IMO)/Maritime Organisation for West and Central Africa (MOWCA) sponsored integrated Sub-regional Coast Guard function network in Brussels, Belgium.
Peterside, who is the leader of the Nigerian delegation to the IMO/MOWCA meeting, said that Nigeria’s position was premised on the fact that crime at sea, especially in the Gulf of Guinea was almost always trans-national.
He said that a regional integrated approach was most suited for checking the menace.
Addressing delegates at the conference, Peterside said that Nigeria with the longest coastline in the continent was mostly affected by the activities of these criminals.
“If the continent and maritime actors do not rise up to tackle piracy, it will affect commerce which is the driver of growth and by extension hamper development,’’ he said.
He described as unfortunate a situation where the Gulf of Guinea had become notorious as one of the top three locations where piracy occurred globally.
The director-general added that freight rates, insurance and ports of call for vessels were all a function of the perceived maritime security of the region.
According to Peterside, three things are important in any regional initiative to fight piracy; human capacity, infrastructure, legal and organisational framework”.
He briefed delegates on Nigeria’s efforts in tackling and mitigating piracy.
“Apart from military-led patrols in our territorial waters to deter the criminals and high intelligence and surveillance network, Nigeria with the assistance of the IMO, is pushing for early passage of a dedicated anti-piracy bill to provide the needed legal framework to tackle the crime,’’ the director-general said.
He said that Nigeria’s fight against piracy enjoyed total support from the topmost layer of government and called on all governments in the Gulf of Guinea to show greater interest in dealing with maritime crimes in the region
According to him, this has adverse economic and reputational impact on member nations.
The summit was declared open by the President of MOWCA and the current Transport Minister of Ghana, Hon. Fifi Kwetey.
Addressing the Summit, the Secretary-General of MOWCA, Amb. Alain Luvambo of Angola, said the summit was a follow-up of the MoU signed by 16 coastal member states of MOWCA at the 13th General Assembly of Ministers adopted by the African Union Commission and United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.
He said that the MoU approved the setting up of a sub-regional coast guard function.
“This particular meeting is to bring together partners, development agencies/donors, funders, financial institutions, shipping operators and maritime administrations across Africa and Europe.
“The partners are meant to pull resources together to finance the Regional Coast Guard function and National Maritime Coast Guard institutions,’’ Luvambo said.
The summit is being attended by Ministers of Transport from different African countries and maritime administrators from Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Liberia, Côte D’Ivoire, DR Congo, Guinea, Ghana, Angola.;
In attendance were also representatives of African Development Bank (AfDB), Regional Maritime University Ghana, Regional Academy of Science and Technology of the Sea Abidjan, amongst others.
The summit continues with presentations by AfDB, European Union, World Bank, AFRIEXIM Bank, Chinese Exim Bank, amongst others.