Why Nigeria is blamed for insecurity in Gulf of Guinea

Thu Dec 9th, 2021 - Delta

Despite having just 24 nautical miles of territorial waters, Nigeria has received the sticks from international observers over the years for insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) which spans about 2,350,000 kilometre square (910,000 miles) in size. In this report, TOLA ADENUBI looks at why Nigeria is blamed anytime the GoG is unsettled.

THE Gulf of Guinea (GoG) stretches from Senegal to Angola, covering over 6,000 km of coastline. It comprises 20 coastal states, islands and landlocked states and forms two regions: West Africa and Central Africa. The sea basin is of geo-political and geo-economic importance for the transport of goods to and from central and southern Africa. Additionally, it is a choke point for the African energy trade, with intensive oil extraction in Nigeria’s Niger Delta.

With commercial shipping activities picking up along the GoG over the years, attacks on ships by armed groups have swelled, with the GoG recording 28 piracy attacks on ships in 2009, 17 in 2010, 27 in 2011, 28 in 2012, 21 in 2013, 14 in 2014, 12 in 2015, 23 in 2016, 21 in 2017, 50 in 2018, two in 2019 and 22 in 2020, according to figures obtained from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

However, not all the attacks have occurred in Nigeria’s territorial waters, but the country has received the sticks anytime such attacks take place in the region irrespective of the location. Even during international politicking, Nigeria’s chances of winning elections into the prestigious Council of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) have been judged every two years by the serenity or turbulence that overshadows the GoG.

The latest shooting of four pirates by a Danish Frigate took place on the international waters, between 25 and 30 nautical miles south of Nigeria’s territorial boundary. However, the hurried visit of the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Bashir Jamoh to the Danish Ambassador to Nigeria the next day after the shooting shows the amount of pressure the nation comes under anytime a ship is attacked or nearly attacked in the international waters of the GoG.

Big brother role

Nigeria’s big brother role in the West African sub-region over the years has been a major reason it is blamed once there is insecurity in the waters of the GoG, findings have revealed. According to checks by the Nigerian Tribune, Nigeria in the early 1980’s signed to take care of security issues from the waters up to Angola under the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Search and Rescue agreement.

Speaking to the Nigerian Tribune on the matter, a vessel Captain onboard a ship in Onne port explained that due to the nation’s foreign policy direction at that time, Nigeria took responsibility for security on the Gulf of Guinea up to Angola. According to the vessel Captain who wouldn’t want his name in print, “Have you seen the Nigerian Search and Rescue map?

“If you check the IMO Search and Rescue map, you will see that Nigeria is responsible for the security of the GoG waters from her coastline up to Angola. It was done back then based on the foreign policy thrust of the country which had Africa as its centre piece. Due to that agreement, Nigeria’s area of responsibility on the GoG ends in Angola.

“Yes, our territorial waters stop at 24 nautical miles from our coastline, but we are the ones that went and signed that we will take care of the Gulf of Guinea waters up to Angola. In fact, Nigeria’s limit on the GoG is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). And that is why the NIMASA resource centre in Kirikiri is called Regional Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Centre.

“So, in terms of search and rescue, the entire stretch of waters from Nigeria’s coastline to Angola is under Nigeria because we signed to take care of that area at the IMO Search and Rescue unit. So, with what is happening recently, it means that Nigeria signed to take care of an area that she is not capable of handling.

“The Danish shooting of pirates that occurred between 25 and 35 nautical miles of international waters is blamed on Nigeria because it agreed to take care of that area. Nigeria signed to secure that area up to Angola. So, if anybody tells you that what happened didn’t happen in our waters, tell the person to go and check the IMO Search and Rescue map. Ask that person why is the NIMASA centre in Kirikiri called Regional Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Centre?”

Percentage of attacks

Another reason Nigeria gets the stick anytime there is a breakdown of law and order in the Gulf of Guinea is down to the fact that most attacks have occurred either in or off it’s territorial waters, checks by the Nigerian Tribune also confirmed.

According to data obtained from the IMB, the only time another country witnessed a higher number of piracy attacks in its waters than Nigeria between 2009 and 2020 was in 2011 when Benin Republic had 18 attacks compared to Nigeria’s seven.

According to the IMB records, Nigeria has led the charts in numbers of piracy attacks in the GoG since 2009, recording the highest single attacks in a year in 2018 when 30 incidents of piracy attacks were recorded against it.

Also, for attempted attacks, Nigeria also leads the chart, topping the table with 18 attempted attacks on ships in or around her waters in 2018.

In the words of the vessel Captain, “Unemployment is a major reason Nigeria is topping the chart for the wrong reason in the Gulf of Guinea.

“Youth unemployment is an identified root cause of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, a link that is particularly accentuated when linking African youth unemployment to piracy in Nigeria. As prime victims of unemployment and marginalisation, this subsector of society is made more likely to resort to criminality, such as piracy and oil theft, in order to make a living,” the Captain explained to Nigerian Tribune.

Recall that on June 10, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Deep Blue Project, officially known as The Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure. The project was initiated by the Federal Ministry of Transportation and Federal Ministry of Defence but is being implemented by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

Before the launch of this ambitious project, Nigeria’s Maritime Security Unit (MSU) had conducted simulation exercises and demonstrated preparedness to tackling piracy outside the coast of Nigeria. The primary objective of the Deep Blue Project is to secure Nigerian Waters up to the Gulf of Guinea and give Nigeria more leverage to harness the enormous resources of the maritime environment resultantly enabling further economic diversification.




source: Tribune