The Government of Japan has expressed willingness to work with UNDP and other partners to address maritime crime and other criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea and in particular, West Africa.
Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Kazuyoshi Matsunaga said this on Friday at the closing of the Anti-Piracy and Prevention of Maritime Crimes Course 5/2023 in Lagos.
The training was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaborating with Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre (MLAILPKC) and the Government of Japan.
According to the envoy the Gulf of Guinea is an important trade route in West Africa, so maritime security in the Gulf is very important for improving trade relations between Japan and West Africa.
”The Gulf of Guinea has been considered a global unsecured route however since 2021, the security situation has greatly improved.
”The Government of Japan is committed to contributing to the security of West Africa and to protecting people’s life through a variety of measures including capacity building for personnel in checking maritime crimes.
”The Government of Japan together with international partner and the UNDP will continue to contribute to preserve the security in the Gulf of Guinea to the livelihood of the African people and to economics growth and prosperity,” he said.
He lauded the Nigerian government, Nigerian military, Nigerian Maritime and Security Agency and other stakeholders for their continuous effort in fighting piracy to the barest minimum.
”The improved security has increased the interest of Japanese companies in West Africa.
”For example, the Lagos International Trade Fair attracted 33 Japanese company in last month.
“As Nigeria and West Africa as a whole become more stable, more Japanese companies will invest in the region,” he said.
The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Naval Training Command (NAVTRAC) Rear Adm. Patrick Nwatu, said that piracy in the high seas was a threat to all and anything that affects global commerce peace and security.
Nwatu said that it was important that we be kept abreast with the current continental initiatives to support the motion of peace and security.
The FOC extended the appreciation of the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) Vice Adm. Emmanuel Ogalla to the kind opportunity presented to the participants.
“In line with the collective security theory, the African Union has been supporting in programmes led by the Nigerian Navy.
“This is to ensure some kind of collective arrangement with our brother Navies and coast guards across the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.
Nwatu said that the idea was for partners and international countries within the Gulf of Guinea to maintain regional presence within their areas to have seamless access across the boarders.
“We have left the era of sporadic acts of piracy and if you check the statistics today from international agencies and our own records, you will see that some reasonable gains have been made.
“I commend everyone for this initiative and pray that more of such programme remains available for us to synergies and work towards global peace and security within the Gulf of Guinea,” the FOC said.
The Chief Of Training Nigerian Army, Maj.-Gen. Sanni Mohammed, said that the Nigerian Army appreciated the cooperation and support of the Government of Japan and the UNDP to the MLAILPKC.
Mohammed was represented by the Commandant, Nigerian Army School of Signals, Maj.-Gen. Philip Ilodibia.
Mohammed said that the training was inline with one of the strategic objectives of the Chief Of Army Staff (COAS) Lt.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja’s command philosophy.
He said that the COAS philosophy sought to transform Nigerian Army training institutions like the MLAILPKC into world class citadels of learning and character development.
“This training is a testament to the cordial relations and international cooperation that exists between Japan and Nigeria.
“I am delighted to see that the centre has sustained it’s international collaborations with national and institutional partners towards delivering training in specialised areas of leadership and peace keeping.
“The programme has also allowed for the development of courses that draw participation for the economic community of West African States and other Gulf of Guinea countries,” the army chief said.
Mohammed said that the training received was designed to enhance participants skills in developing and recommending measures for combating piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
“I thank the Navies of the Republic of Benin, Togo and Ghana for sending their officers to participants in this course.
“I can attest to the fact that the participants have been equiped in all necessary kinetic and non kinetic means of combating piracy and transnational crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.
“I hope that the participation inculcate all that was taught to ensure greater benefits in their various services and agencies,” he said.
Mohammed urged the participants to employ the valid guild in the training to facilitate safety of maritime activities in the Gulf of Guinea.
Also, the Commandant, MLAILPKC, Brig.-Gen. Obinna Onubogu said that MLAILPKC was a centre of excellence with a mission to deliver realistic and qualitative training on leadership and peace supply operations.
Onubogu said that since MLAILPKC establishment in 2004, the centre had developed the capacity to develop leadership training as well as combined individual training on UN courses.
“The centre has since 2021 started developing capacity in maritime related courses towards enhancing our visibility as a nation that can provide the maritime staff and contingents in future UN operations.
“Participants received prerequisites and realistic training on countering piracy and they can now jointly develop intervention efforts against maritime piracy in conjunction with other agencies.
“We are therefore grateful to the Government of Japan and UNDP as partners that provide funding and technical support for the centres UN maritime security package,” the Commandant said.
The 30 military and para-military personnel have graduated from a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) focused at combating piracy and all forms of crimes and criminalities in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) coastal areas.
The training which started on Nov.20 and ended on Dec.1 held at the Nigerian Army School of Finance and Administration (NASFA), Apapa, Lagos with participants from Ghana, Republic of Benin and Togo.
The training included participants from the Navy, Army, Airforce, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) among others