The Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNOWTSSA) has blamed unemployment as the major cause of the high rate of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Deputy Secretary General of the association, Mr. John Okpono, disclosed this yesterday in an interview with Shipping Position Daily in Lagos.
He advised the federal government to boost the amnesty programme as according to him, that will engage the people the more and remove the tendency of going into to crimes.
Explaining further, he said: "The thing is that there is a saying that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. As I speak with you now, I am in my office, by the end of today now I am tired I may not have the time for all these illegalities. Now when you give people amnesty you equip them and once you equip them you have reduced their period of staying idle"
He argued that the recent increase in piracy attacks is as a result of the increase in the level of unemployment.
"What it means is that their time for that nefarious activity has been reduced. Once you are engaged, sometimes you find yourself very busy that you cannot even attend to some other issues; it is the same thing with all these kidnapping. If the rate of unemployment didn't increase the way it is today the rate of the criminal activities not just piracy won't be this high. All these are as a result of high rate of unemployment. It is common that once someone is engaged he/she might not have time for other nefarious activities".
Okpono maintained that the amnesty shouldn't just be money alone, but the government should try to empower the people by gainfully engaging them. He also called for a proper orientation of the militants before they are engaged.
"Give them orientation and engage them or establish them as self-employed, they won't have time to think of going to the sea to go and kidnap somebody. So to me correct and standard amnesty will automatically reduce piracy not just in the Gulf of Guinea but every other place. Provided the amnesty is a standard one not the one on the pages of the newspaper. You can give them amnesty by employing them or establishing them"
He also said that the government can also engage them by providing an enabling environment for then to personally engage themselves.
"You can also give then an enabling environment to work; this is amnesty that will reduce criminality, it is not about giving them money because when the money finishes the person will go back to criminality” he argued.
Also reacting to the allegation that most of the pirates are seafarers, he said that the association does not believe that, adding that it is not only seafarers that commit crimes at sea.