Nigeria is losing about USD 1.5 billion a month due to piracy, armed robbery at sea, smuggling, and fuel supply fraud as piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea increase at an alarming rate, the UN Security Council was told at a debate on Monday.
Since the start of the year at least 32 attacks off the coast of Nigeria were recorded, affecting many member states, including the United States, Ambassador Michele J. Sison, a U.S. Deputy Representative to the United Nations said while speaking at an Open Debate on Peace Consolidation in West Africa titled “Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea in the Gulf of Guinea.“
According to Sison, the root causes of piracy in the region are ineffective governance structures, weak rule of law, precarious legal frameworks and inadequate naval, coast guard, and maritime law enforcement.
“The absence of an effective maritime governance system, in particular, hampers freedom of movement in the region, disrupts trade and economic growth, and facilitates environmental crimes,” she stressed.
Sison said that the solution to these root causes lies in greater African stewardship of maritime safety and security at the continental, regional, and member state level. In addition, there is a need for strong political will from African governments and leaders to pursue and prosecute crimes at all levels within criminal enterprises.
“Absent African ownership and action from national and local governments to tackle maritime security challenges, there is little reason to believe that attacks in the Gulf of Guinea will decline. International cooperation and integration among regional countries, international organizations, industry, and other entities that have a stake in maritime security are also critical to ensure the full range of lawful and timely actions to combat piracy and other maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea,” she added.
Urging for immediate action on the issue, Sison pointed out that states in the region should establish a pilot maritime Zone E, covering the coasts of Nigeria, Niger, Benin, and Togo, as in this area the majority of attacks occur.
“Establishing Zone E would provide the means for an integrated approach to coordinating joint patrols, naval drills, training programs, and intelligence sharing among the naval forces of countries in the zone,” she explained.
A comprehensive, regional approach would help reduce the loss of national revenue, support socioeconomic development, and expand environmental protection in the region, she concluded.
The call for action comes as attacks and kidnappings surge. As World Maritime News reported last week, there were as many as six piracy-related incidents off Nigeria within 24hrs-April 19-20, with one of those incidents resulting in kidnapping of two crew members of an OSV.