Still on piracy and sea robbery in Nigeria

“A total of 20 reports against all vessel types were received for Nigeria, 16 of which occurred off the coast of Brass, Bonny and Bayelsa. Guns were reportedly used in 18 of the incidents and vessels were underway in 17 of 20 reports. 39 of the 49 crewmembers 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 general, all waters in and off Nigeria remain risky, despite intervention in some cases by the Nigerian Navy. We advise vessels to be vigilant”. “The number of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea could be even higher than our figures as many incidents continue to be unreported.”

It added that: “Guns were reportedly used in 18 of the incidents and vessels were underway in 17 of 20 reports. 39 of the 49 crewmembers 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.

The above statement was the summation on Nigeria by the global piracy monitoring body; the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) as at the end of the third quarter of 2017

Summing it up, Director of IMB; Pottengal Mukundan said: “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”.

As if to further justify the IMB rating, Nigerian pirates kidnap six crew from a containership off Bonny. 

According to the report, six crew members, including the captain were kidnapped from  a Liberian-flagged containership Demeter while the ship was sailing some 50 nautical miles south-west of Bonny, Nigeria. 

It is sad that after all have been said and all assurances given, Nigeria’s rating is still as poor as it was almost a decade ago. 

Piracy has now become a means of livelihood for hoodlums, miscreants and militants across the length and breadth of the Niger Delta region and Lagos. Local and international statistics are scary enough to underscore the economic and social dangers that are faced by victims of piracy or sea robbery.

Truth is, Nigeria is now ranked next to lawless Somalia in piracy. She holds an unenviable record of being a giant in piracy activities in the Gulf of Guinea. 

A lot has been said about the various options that we have as a nation. These options range from the NIMASA/Navy alliance, the Coast Guard option and the moribund Maritime Security Agency (MASECA) option. 

We recall that the NIMASA/ Navy Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) gave birth to the Maritime Guard Command which is domiciled in NIMASA. It is this command that is largely responsible for the increasing rate of arrests of sea robbers and pirates in recent times.

Without boring anyone with statistics that are already in public domain, the current rating and the alarm that was raised by the International Maritime Bureau about piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is enough reason to reappraise our approach.

It is shocking that while piracy is reducing in the Gulf of Aden where Somali pirates are gods, it is escalating in the Gulf of Guinea, and Nigerian pirates are being fingered for contributing immensely to it.

It is against these shocking realities and the monumental exposures that we want to commend the collaboration between NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy.

Recently, the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside said the agency is pushing for the passage of a dedicated anti-piracy Bill. According to him, after the passage, Nigeria will be the first African country to have a dedicated anti-piracy law.

“We have raised the bar on surveillance and intelligence in Nigerian waters, we have the satellite surveillance system in place and maritime domain awareness assets”, he stressed.

As much as we agree that the alliance between the Navy and NIMASA is producing results, we are still of the opinion that it is not a most acceptable way of tackling the menace. It is a model that can not be cited outside of our shores.

We are still irrevocably committed to our belief that the most reasonable model appears to be Coast Guard, which is already a tested global model in the fight against piracy and all forms of vices associated with seafaring. 

The question is: if the Coast Guard apparatus has been tested and adjudged adequate in other maritime domains, what do we have against it in Nigeria. It is even more curious that the same forces that were against the establishment of Coast Guard were those that also worked against the establishment of a Maritime Security Agency (MASECA).

We stress it again that  it is the statutory responsibility of  NIMASA to ensure a safe and  secure  water for ships, crew and cargo, the ad hoc arrangement with Navy or any institutions for that matter is just what it is – purely, ad hoc.

The Navy and the Joint Military Task Force in the Niger Delta code-named Operation Pulo Shield appear to be the toast right now; it is recording seizures and arrests of oil thieves and ships. There have been unprecedented arrests of sea robbers, oil thieves and pirates. The earlier NIMASA takes full charge the better for the nation, the maritime industry and the economy at large. 

We are rather baffled at the recent award of   $195m Maritime Security Contract to  an unnamed Israeli Firm  by the Federal Government. We see it as another step in a wrong direction; it is not the solution to the rising cases of violence on our waters. 

The contract which covers procurement of security equipment and training of Nigerian security personnel to tackle crime on the nation's waters is laughable, to say the least. 

We are firmly in support of the creation of a Coast Guard as it obtains in other climes. For this not to be, NIMASA has to do things differently, it has to demonstrate capability to fulfill its mandate, which include safety and security on Nigerian waters .    

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