Global Security Body Warns Of Spike In Piracy In Nigeria Ahead Of 2019 Elections     

A damning half-year 2018 report of attacks by Nigeria-based sea pirates was released last week by global security firm; EOS Risk Group. In the report, the body raised an alarm that there may be more deadly attacks and kidnappings ahead of the 2019 general elections in Nigeria.

In the report which was released last week, Nigeria’s daredevil pirates were alleged to have masterminded kidnapping 35 seafarers from vessels in the Gulf of Guinea so far this year. The report said that, Nigeria continues to be the World’s epicentre for piracy activity. 

The EOS also warned that instability in the Niger Delta is likely to increase in the run up to Nigeria’s 2019 general elections, which could result in a spike in piracy activity. 

“Since the turn of the century, this pattern has been visible in Nigeria ahead of major election periods, evidence of the complex links between piracy and political conflict in the Niger Delta”, the report stated, even as it pin-pointed Rivers and Bayelsa states as the localities of sea piracy in Nigeria. 

In the report, Steven Harwood, head of special risks at EOS, which covers kidnap for ransom response, said in the report that, there are two main pirate gangs in Nigeria, both employing around 16 full-time pirates. 

“One is located in the creeks near Yenagoa, Bayelsa State and the other around Abonnema, Rivers State. Both gangs are in communication and sometimes subcontract the physical hostage taking to other criminal groups”.

According to the body, “from January through June 2018, EOS recorded 34 Nigerian pirate attacks on merchant and fishing vessels in the Gulf of Guinea. These attacks resulted in the kidnap of 35 seafarers for ransom and the hijacking of several vessels”.

“Most concerning this year has been the resurgence of ‘petro-piracy’, involving the hijacking of tankers for oil theft ” said Jake Longworth, senior intelligence analyst at EOS Risk. “The return of petro -piracy has been accompanied by an associated increase in the geographical reach of Nigerian pirate gangs, leading to attacks in the waters of Benin and Ghana.”

It added that: “Following a flatlining in piracy activity off Benin since 2012, EOS recorded seven pirate attacks in the waters of Nigeria’s western neighbour in the first half of 2018. The attacks involved several successful tanker hijackings, one of which resulted in the loss of 2,000 MT of product. Nigerian pirates also operated in Ghanaian waters in April, kidnapping five seafarers from two vessels”.

Despite hijackings grabbing the headlines, it noted that “the main threat is still found off the restive Niger Delta, specifically on the approaches to ports and oil terminals in the vicinity of Port Harcourt. “95% of attacks we recorded in Nigerian waters occurred near Bonny Island, within 60 nautical miles of the shore. Pirates operating in these waters are focussed on the kidnap of seafarers for ransom.”

The report also added that “it was in this area that heavily armed Nigerian pirates kidnapped 11 seafarers from the Dutch general cargo vessel FWN Rapide in April.” According to EOS, it is the highest number of hostages taken by a Nigerian pirate group in a single attack.