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ANLCA crisis is fueled by desire for vengeance—Ozo Chukwura

Prince Ozo Chukwura is a Chieftain of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA).

As one -time Chapter Chairman of the association in Tin Can Port, the Zonal Coordinator in the Western Zone, and presently a member of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding Practices in Nigeria(CRFFN) as well as a member of the new Board of Trustees(BOT) of ANLCA, Prince Chukwura is one of the most experienced and respected voices in the association.

Generally regarded as a man of peace, Chukwura was uncomfortable with the protracted crisis in ANLCA which is threatening to bring down the oldest freight forwarding group in Nigeria.

Little wonder he decided to undertake the onerous and thankless task of reconciling the warring factions of the association which have been at each other’s throat in their quest to get the soul of ANLCA. 

In this revealing interview with FUNSO OLOJO, the freight forwarding icon shares his thoughts on how he intends to bring the two warring groups to the reconciliatory table to achieve the much elusive peace.

 

Q. Prince Ozo Chukwura, as one of the elders of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA), what is your reaction to the protracted crisis that has almost brought ANLCA down to its knees?

A. I have been in ANLCA for some time now and I have paid my dues. I have also attained a level in the association’s politics that put me in good stead to talk as a stakeholder.

I left as the Zonal Coordinator of the Association. I started from grassroots.
Like every other association, ANLCA is not new to crises but this present one is very unique and different from the previous crises that had bedeviled the association in the time past.
The present crisis started with the BOT and the members of the BOT did not lose elections.
The elections which brought in Tony Iju were somehow complicated. It was a collegiate system where only elected members into the college participated in the NECOM election which brought in Tony in 2018 at Enugu.
In that election, Tony was considered as an underdog, he won against the general expectations of the majority of voters who were in support of Emenike, his opponent. (Tony beat Emenike by three votes).
In that election, all the elected members in the West into the collegiate supported one particular candidate while the East’s votes were expected to be shared between the two contending candidates.
That was why almost everybody thought that the preferred candidate would win. But contrary to their expectations, the candidate who was not expected to win won and that was Tony Iju, the candidate I routed for even though I was not a member of the collegiate who voted in Enugu.
In that Election, Tony Iju was rated as an underdog because almost all the heavyweights in ANLCA were supporting Emenike.
Most of the BOT members, the past president, Olayiwola Shittu, naturally supported Emenike, his  Vice, and most of the chapter executives who were installed by the immediate past president.
So you can see that Tony was not expected to win.
But despite all the odds against his chances Tony, won the elections.
However, it was unfortunate that the BOT elections have been conducted and won before the NECOM elections which produced Tony were held.
However, the elections of principal officers in the BOT like Chairman, Secretary which were conducted within themselves, is where the problem started.
The elections of the principal officers like Chairman, the Vice -Chairman and Secretary is an internal arrangement within the board for administrative convenience. It was not recognized by the ANLCA constitution.
They would have had that election in the BOT before the NECOM election but the day the President was being inaugurated was the day the BOT held its own election in a hotel and this did not go down well with some members.
Some BOT members were with the President while some didn’t support him.
Those members of the board who supported Emenike who lost the elections were not with the president and that is the genesis of the present crisis.
So it looks like the board was polarised along with the two major contenders in the 2018 NECOM elections, Tony and Emenike.
This is the root cause of the problem and everything that has happened which have now snowballed into the present big crisis took its root from this scenario I just painted.
The BOT members, after their elections, called the president to resolve the crisis in the BOT but asked them to give him three months to settle down as he just assumed office.
But those members of the BOT who are opposed to his election as the president felt he was just playing pranks with them and what really angered them was the President did not do anything after the three months he promised as three months grew to six and to eight months, yet the President kept mute over the vexed issues in the BOT.
This, therefore, made those who are opposed to his elections be convinced that the President was not sincere but actually playing on their intelligence.Then the war started from there.

Before you knew it, one faction of the BOT went to court and got a judgment (not an order), asking the President not to recognise the other faction of the BOT and went further to state that some of the BOT  members of ANLCA who were validly elected were not registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission(CAC), therefore the court does not recognise them as the members of the BOT.
This is notwithstanding that these people were genuinely elected by members of the association to be in the board.
While the court does not recognise them, the ANLCA constitution recognises them.
The BOT members who the court does not recognise have already started working and even participated in the elections of the NECOM at Enugu.
This created a lacuna.
This led to another problem as the faction which the court said are not valid members of the BOT also went to court and this led to series of court injunctions that created so many crises.
This is where we are today.Q. Is it not a constitutional provision in the ANLCA that a dispute of this nature must first be subjected to the internal conflict resolution mechanism of the association and must not be taken to court?

A. Yes, that is what our constitution says but all the parties in the dispute are the same people whom the constitution empowered to hear and resolve such dispute.
For instance, such a dispute will go through the board where the President will be asked to set up a panel to adjudicate on the matter.
However, as you know, both the board and the President are in dispute here, and who is going to adjudicate on the matter?
The constitution does not envisage the peculiarity of this case.Q.This crisis started about three years ago, in fact, it started with the tenure of  Tony and it seems not to be abating. As one of the respected leaders of the association, what are you doing in order to ensure there is peace in the association as the crisis has taken a heavy toll on members?

A. Left for me, I would have sat down, folded my hands and watch them because I have never been a member of any faction, even when I have been badly treated before, I have never left ANLCA, I have always remained a loyal and disciplined member of the association.
The incessant crises in ANLCA, especially this present one, have made members, including me, concluded that the association has lost its aims and objectives, one of which is to cater to the welfare and professional well-being of members.
Nobody is talking about the welfare of members, their professional capacity, and how to enhance it, but what we busy ourselves with is endless squabbles and how to resolve them which, for me, is personal.
For me, this crisis would have been nipped on the board if the people concerned had done the right thing at the right time.
It was wrong for the members of the BOT to have held their election at the same time Tony was being inaugurated.
Equally, it was wrong for Tony not to have kept his promise to the board when he was invited to their meeting and pleaded for time, he should have kept his words.
Some members were calling the President unprintable name and even vowed not to recognise him as their President.

All these, though are part of association politics, have been taken too far and that is why we are where we are today.

In fairness to the President, he initiated some peace moves intended to reconcile the warring parties.

He set up a peace committee that comprised the warring parties, including Ofobikwe, the Zonal Coordinator, Alloy Eze, and other high-ranking members of ANLCA  and the committee came up with the report on how to restore peace to ANLCA.
I am a stakeholder in ANLCA and should know what is happening but I want to tell you that nobody has heard anything about that report till today.
That report was never read.Q. Whose fault?

A. The President’s. He was supposed to have called a meeting and read the report to the public.
It is just like the Nigerian situation where we set up various panels whose reports were never implemented.
Q. Could this have been one of the grouses of the aggrieved party?
A. I really do not know because I am not privy to the contents of the report since the report was not made public.
But I assume, like any other reasonable person will do, that since the report was not read, maybe, just maybe, some of the recommendations in the reports are not favourable to a particular side.
If it does not favour a particular side, it could possibly mean, I am just insinuating because I am not sure, the report may not have favour the present NECOM.
This is because if it did not favour the other side, they would have voiced out.
After the report, the President took another giant step towards reconciliation. I will always want to give due respect to whom it is due.
The President called all members of his group, his supporters and told them that he was going to forgive those who are calling him names and those who said they will not recognise him as the President.
 He told them that he was going to forgive them and lift their suspension.
He did that by lifting the suspension and this made all his supporters mad at him but I had to tell them that they should allow the President to exercise his discretionary powers and authority as the President.
That he is not a President of a faction.
However, the President was silent on the issue of the BOT members who are opposed to him.
When he granted pardon to the Western chapter executives who formed a parallel government, he did not pardon the estrangled BOT members and that made the crisis not to abate.
This made the estrangled BOT members decided that the President has drawn the battle line and he has played on their intelligence.
This other side in the BOT which the court said are not recognised went to the CAC and got themselves registered.
They brought the letter to the NECOM but the letter was dated two days after their tenure must have expired and they said they wanted to start afresh.
This resulted in another level of confusion and crisis.
Any sensible person who is on the side of truth would know that this could not be possible and that was the position of the NECOM which the affected BOT members rejected.
And this has resulted in a fresh crisis that we are in today in ANLCA.
Q. Having analysed the genesis of the crisis, as a person who is committed to restoring peace to ANLCA, what efforts have you made to ensure there is peace in the association?
A. When these issues were going on, I took it on myself to reach out to all the aggrieved parties in order to broker peace.
I have visited Alhaji Mustapha twice to plead with him on the need to shield his sword. I have met Ofobikwe, I have met Segun Odutan. I have met Barrister Ada Aphononu, one after the other, pleading with them to embrace peace.
I have even gone to Dr. Opara who was a strong supporter of Tony Iju before the crisis broke out.
Barrister Ada even elected to follow me.
I had met with Dayo Abdulaziz at the airport, pleaded with him to embrace peace.
I have been to almost all the major contenders in this matter and there was nowhere necessary for me to get the cooperation of these people that I have not gone to.I called Ernest Elochukwu and later went to him with Anyman and Alloy Eze and I pleaded with him on the way forward.

Let me state here that Chief Elochukwu was the only one who told me the real reason they are fighting Tony Iju.
He told me the reason for their anger which others I met did not tell me.
Based on what he told me, I suspended my peace efforts for a while.
Q. What did he tell you?
A. Relax, you will get to know in a while.  It is related to what made me suspend my peace moves. I was with three people when I met him.
We discussed so many things which I will not divulge here.
But later, Chief Elochukwu called me by my name and said ‘Ozomena, We( he refers to the remaining five members of the board whom the court said were not recognised but later got registered on one side and the other three before Aare Sanni Shittu died) are like bulls in the Chinese Shop.
You can interpret the idiomatic expression he used.
He said their main aim is to destroy Tony Iju’s s administration, that he would not be relevant.
It is now left for Tony Iju to learn how to navigate the raging bulls from his Chinese shop to forestall further destruction.
It was a very instructive proverb.
They felt Tony Iju destroyed the little tenure they had as the BOT members through what they regarded as his insincerity of purpose when he was called upon to intervene in the crisis in the BOT then.
They felt that by his attitude which they regarded as playing pranks, Tony allowed the crisis in the BOT to fester to his own advantage which eventually truncated their tenure.
Q. So it was a tit for tat, a payback time?
A.That is exactly what is happening. Any other things you are hearing or they are telling you is secondary.
That is at the core of the present crisis.
That was the exact word Elochukwu used, that they are like bulls in the Chinese shop. You can quote me.
I was with two people,  Anyman, Alloy Eze and I now understand.
But I said these bulls have destroyed enough and that it is time to lure the bulls out of the shop so that the owner of the shop can now take full control of his shop and repair whatever may have been destroyed.
That was at the point I suspended my efforts of reconciliation. I had to allow temper to cool down.
Within that time I suspended my peace moves, there were lots of things that happened.
That was when the national secretariat was attacked. Also, that was when the crisis in Tin Can happened, and President was attacked and also, after that,  a vehicle belonging to the association was forcibly removed from the secretariat which led to the fracas and one person who is our member nearly lost his life.
The boy that was attacked was identified to be on the Mustapha faction so it was assumed the people who attacked are from Tony Iju camp.
I made my investigation and I found out that Tony, in his capacity as the President asked those who charted away the association properties to return them within 48 hours.
And before the ultimatum elapsed, there was an attack where a boy from Mustapha camp was nearly killed.
That was when I got in touch with some leaders of the association like Henry Njoku and Elochukwu and warned them of the dangerous dimension the crisis was taking.
We were so fortunate that the boy did not die, if he had died, the situation would have been more precarious by now.
Going around these people is not an easy task.
You will get to some of them they would say, ” can we trust you ?” Some of them don’t even trust me, they thought I am a moll.
But that will not deter me. My spirit keeps telling me to do the little I could and if they agree to sheath their swords, the better for all of us. But if they are adamant, I would have been seen to have done my best as I cannot kill myself.
But I will keep moving.
I have even been to Taiye Oyeniyi who sounded very understanding.
If we started to recount the type of humiliation people have suffered in this association, I was the most affected but that has not made me work against the interests of the association.
We should all toe the line of peace and forgive one another, that is the only thing that can save this association.
As former President Goodluck Jonathan said, no ambition is worth the blood of our members.

Q. Having listened to you sir, it is clear that the aggrieved people are hitting back at Tony whom they felt truncated their tenure as the BOT members and they too wanted to truncate his own tenure as the President.

However, as the peacemaker, what efforts have you made to ensure that the two warring parties drop their hardline posture and embrace peace?
A. As a human being, I will try my best. I have been called several names while on these self-appointed peacemaking moves, but that will not deter me.
I will continue. I am not an ambitious person and I don’t belong to any of the two warring groups. I am contented with the level I have attained in the association.
I will continue to talk with both warring sides and try to convince them to sheath their swords. We must embrace the spirit of giving and take.
 I have made a proposal to both sides which I will not make public so that it can sail through.
The proposal is on how to made the two sides embrace peace.
You know we have a new BOT which I am one of them, the one which elections were held in Owerri. The tenure of the former one has expired.
Even though the other group is still insisting that they are the BOT, but they know that their tenure has expired.
For me, the election in Owerri was in order because the President made wide consultation before it was held.
If it means to come to the round table where both sides will make concessions for peace to reign, so be it.
Q.(CUTS IN). Even if it means collapsing the two BOTs and conduct fresh elections where all the two warring groups will participate?
A. God bless you. Exactly. You have started to reveal some of my proposals which I did not want in the public.If that will bring peace, it is ok. Those who have served their two tenures will leave while others, such as those with one tenure and new entrants, can participate in the fresh BOT elections.

Let me also remind you that at the Owerri NECOM meeting, far-reaching resolutions were made that is supposed to remove some of the causes of these incessant crises in the association.

One of such is that all NECOM officials will now serve a single tenure of five years. President will now have one single tenure of five years, starting from the incumbent who is Tony while chapter executives will serve a single tenure of four years instead of three years.
That means Tony will serve an extra one year.
If that is not acceptable, all the sides can sit down and look into the resolutions and come up with the ones that are agreeable to all the sides in order to achieve peace.
I, Prince Ozo Chukwurah, if it means I have to sacrifice my position on the new BOT for peace to reign, I am more than willing to let go of my position.Q. To what extent do you think the Mustapha- led faction will agree to your proposal of collapsing the two BOTs?

A. That will depend on how the proposal is tabled and addressed.
We are not going to reopen the old wound, we are not going to find faults or apportion blame but put all the contending parties on the same page so one will not feel inferior or superior to the other.
However, in all these efforts, the two groups must recognise that Tony is still the President.
So far, the reactions have been positive.
However, until all the groups are brought to the same table, including the BOT members, there are just eight in numbers,  excluding the late Aare Sanni Shittu, before we now fully unveil and sell the proposal to them.My intention, therefore, is to cause a peace meeting of the two contending sides, together with the past presidents who are available where all these issues will be looked into and thoroughly debated and a consensus will be reached to achieve the desired peace.

Q. How soon will this reconciliatory meeting be convened?
A. I am still consulting. Until I finish the necessary consultation and get the buy-in of all the sides to the dispute and that of the past presidents, it is then the meeting could take place.
The venue is equally important to me. I was thinking of taking it to Abeokuta or Asaba. God will provide the cost. I think with God on my side, I shall try my best possible.
But the few I have consulted so far agreed that Lagos is still central. That will show you that some of them are showing interest.
There is no one who does not want peace no matter how you pretend.
Nobody has a monopoly of violence but it is essential we embrace peace because we all have children and relations.
Violence has no ethnic colouration. Before it was Igbo against Yoruba but now it is Yoruba attacking another Yoruba in Tin Can while the Igbos are watching them, while they are attacking an Igbo man at the top.
All these have to stop. It is an ill wind that blows no one any good.
I don’t belong to any group. I want them to allow Tony to finish his tenure and allow ANLCA to know peace once again.
Q. What inspires you to take up this challenge of reconciliation?
A. I was inspired by my desire for peace and the need to restore sanity to the association.
I do not want any loss of life because this crisis was getting out of hands and if care is not taken, it may snowball into bloodletting which I abhor.
However, what really emboldened my resolve to take up this role of peacemaker, despite the obvious challenges, was when I went to Tin Can a few weeks ago.
I walked into a group of young members of our association who said to me, “Oga’ you are the only one we trust to take up the role of a peacemaker.
They said they had confidence in me to bring the two warring parties to reconciliation.
Alhaji Lungu was there, Lala, one Bamidele Shittu was there.
 It was raining, that very day they said the Transportation Minister came to Apapa.
However, Chief Elochukwu has called me and spoke to me after I visited him and asked me to meet with Barrister Ada and that she would give me the necessary support.
Initially, Ada didn’t want to talk but later she had to call me and since then she has been the most outstanding person who has been inspiring me on these reconciliatory efforts to date.
She has even volunteered to join me in the mission to restore peace to ANLCA.
So, anywhere I go for the reconciliatory efforts, she willingly joins me.
I have also requested that Ofobikwe should join us and he has agreed in a way.
The next person I want to meet is the immediate past President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu.
May God support my efforts and strengthen me in this onerous task of restoring the much-needed peace to ANLCA.
I am positive that I shall succeed on this mission.

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Aviation

Anxiety mounts among international airlines as US deploys 5G network

Major international airlines have cancelled flights heading to the United States or changed the planes they’re using Wednesday, the latest complication in a dispute over concerns that 5G mobile phone service could interfere with aircraft technology.

Some airlines said they were warned that the Boeing 777, a plane used by carriers worldwide, was particularly affected by the new high-speed wireless service.

The aircraft is the workhorse for the Dubai-based Emirates, a key carrier for East-West travel, and its flight schedule took one of the biggest hits.

It was not clear how disruptive the cancellations would be. Several airlines said they would try to merely use different planes to maintain their service.

The cancellations and changes came a day after mobile phone carriers AT&T and Verizon said they would postpone new wireless service near some US airports planned for this week.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has cleared a number of aircraft to fly into airports with 5G signals, but the Boeing 777 is not on the list.

Similar mobile networks have been deployed in dozens of other countries — sometimes with concessions such as reducing the power of the networks near airports, as France has done.

But in the US, the issue has pitted the FAA and the airlines against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and telecommunications companies.

The 5G service uses a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to that used by radio altimeters, which are devices that measure the height of aircraft above the ground and help pilots land in low visibility.

The FCC, which set a buffer between the 5G band and the spectrum that planes use, determined that it could be used safely in the vicinity of air traffic.

AT&T and Verizon have said their equipment will not interfere with aircraft electronics.

But FAA officials saw a potential problem, and the telecom companies agreed to a pause while it is addressed.

On Wednesday, Emirates announced it would halt flights to several US cities due to “operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services in the U.S. at certain airports”.

It said it would continue flights to Los Angeles, New York and Washington.

“We are working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns, and we hope to resume our US services as soon as possible,” the state-owned airline said.

Of particular concern appears to be the Boeing 777. Emirates only flies that model and the Airbus A380 jumbo jet.

Japan’s All Nippon Airways said that the FAA “has indicated that radio waves from the 5G wireless service may interfere with aircraft altimeters”.

“Boeing has announced flight restrictions on all airlines operating the Boeing 777 aircraft, and we have cancelled or changed the aircraft for some flights to/from the US-based on the announcement by Boeing,” ANA said.

It cancelled 20 flights over the issue to cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

Japan Airlines similarly said that it had been informed that 5G signals “may interfere with the radio altimeter installed on the Boeing 777”.

It said it will stop using the model in the continental US for now.

Eight of its flights were affected Wednesday — three passenger trips and five for cargo.

Taiwan’s EVA Air also said the FAA specifically said 777s may be affected, but it did not spell out how it would adjust its schedule.

But Air France said it planned to continue flying its Boeing 777s into American airports. It did not explain why it didn’t change its aircraft as many other carriers have.

Chicago-based Boeing Co did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Air India also announced on Twitter that it would cancel flights to Chicago, Newark, New York and San Francisco because of the 5G issue.

But it also said it would try to use other aircraft on US routes — a course several other airlines took.

Korean Air, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific and Austrian Airlines said they substituted different planes for flights that were scheduled to use 777s.

Korean Air spokeswoman Jill Chung said the airline was also avoiding operating some kinds of 747s at affected airports.

Germany’s Lufthansa also swapped out one kind of 747 for another on some US-bound flights.

British Airways cancelled several planned US-bound Boeing 777 flights and changed aircraft on others.

The FAA has said it will allow planes with accurate, reliable altimeters to operate around high-power 5G.

But planes with older altimeters will not be allowed to make landings under low-visibility conditions.

Contributing to the problem, according to the FAA, are the signal strength of the 5G towers and the orientation of their antennae.

“Base stations in rural areas of the United States are permitted to emit at higher levels in comparison to other countries which may affect radio altimeter equipment accuracy and reliability,” the FAA said in December.

FCC Chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement that the 5G “deployment can safely co-exist with aviation technologies in the United States, just as it does in other countries around the world.”

However, Rosenworcel urged the FAA to conduct its safety checks with “both care and speed”.

AT&T and Verizon spent tens of billions of dollars for the 5G spectrum known as C-Band in a government auction last year.

Choi Jong-Yun, a spokeswoman for Asiana Airlines, said the company hasn’t been affected so far because it uses Airbus planes for passenger flights to the US.

However, Choi raised a new wrinkle, saying airlines have also been instructed by the FAA to avoid automatic landings at affected US airports during bad weather conditions, regardless of plane type.

Asiana will redirect its planes to nearby airports during those conditions, she said.

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Foreign Navies to remain in Gulf of Guinea  to hunt pirates till 2024

 

— as EU says host states lack capacity to curtail pirate attacks
Eyewitness reporter with agency report
Despite the efforts of Nigeria through her deep blue project and other coastal states in West Africa to tackle piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the European Union (EU) has decided to station foreign Navies in the region to provide security cover.
 An EU mission using Danish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish warships is to patrol West African waters in coming years to stem pirate attacks.

Accordingly, the EU external action service has proposed to EU member states, in a memo, that  France, Italy, and Spain should lead the onslaught by sending ships for eight months each in 2022 to the Gulf of Guinea.

The Gulf of Guinea in West Africa “continues to be particularly dangerous for seafarers”, the memo, dated 12 January 2022, noted.

“The region now accounts for just over 95 per cent of all kidnappings for ransom at sea,” it said.

“The risk of PAG (pirate action group)] actions remain high … from Togo to Gabon, with Nigeria as the centre of gravity,” the EU added.

But “none of the coastal navies, with the partial exception of Nigeria, can operate the required high-sea patrol boats to respond to attacks,” the EU said.


Nigeria’s high powered fast intercessor vessel under deep blue project
Danish, French, Italian, Portuguese ships have already been doing “exercises” under a “pilot” EU project called the Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP) Concept in the region since January 2021.

And the foreign service proposed extending the CMP until 2024.

It wanted to put down legal roots, by exploring “handover agreements”
with the 20 or so Gulf of Guinea-region nations.

“If the national appropriate legal framework is in place, pirates will be transferred to the concerned MS [member states] and then prosecuted,” the EU memo suggested.

The EU was building an intelligence-sharing platform linking “more than 300 EU and [Gulf of Guinea]-national authorities with responsibilities in maritime surveillance”.

And Europe wanted to win hearts and minds, including among the “general public”.

EU diplomats were to launch a “strategic communication” campaign, with special events, involving CMP “naval visits” at “ports of call, such as Lagos in Nigeria”.

The EU pilot-mission aside, other Danish, French, Italian, Spanish, and US warships have also done independent patrols in the Gulf of Guinea in recent times.

The oil-rich 2.35 million km2 region, where millions of people lived on less than $1 a day, has become known as “pirate alley”, the Reuters news agency recently reported.

Hostages, hundreds of whom were seized in recent years, were ransomed for up to $300,000, it said.

But prisoners suffered ordeals in “the Niger Delta’s swampy, snaking creeks, where they face malaria, typhoid, and attacks from rival bands of kidnappers”, Reuters’ report, from Lagos, said.

“Possible attacks might focus on targets closer to the Niger Delta …. their [many pirates’] place of origin, enabling them to flee if being intercepted” in future, the EU foreign service noted.

Meanwhile, illegal fishing was also doing “serious damage to the environment” and causing “depletion of fish stocks”, it added.

The region was a “transit zone, but also a destination, of drug trafficking between South America and Europe,” it warned.

And there was “human-trafficking and migrant-smuggling towards other African countries or other regions, especially Europe, via the Canary Islands”, the EU said.

It remained to be seen how well the EU’s ambitions go down in Nigeria, the regional power, however.

Nigeria recently accused Denmark of neocolonialism over an incident, last November, when special-forces soldiers from a Danish frigate shot dead four “pirates”.

And when the same frigate, the Esbern Snare, sent a helicopter to rescue hostages seized by pirates from a Greek-operated container ship, the Tonsberg, in December, Nigeria ordered Denmark’s hot pursuit to halt when the pirate boat entered Nigerian waters.

Zooming out, the EU also has military missions in the Central African Republic (CAR), Libya, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, and Somalia, as well naval ones in the Central Mediterranean and Horn of Africa seas.

But Europe is competing for influence against Russian and wider aggression as well as Chinese buy-outs of strategic assets in Africa.

“The purpose of the CMP [the EU’s West Africa anti-piracy mission] is to increase the EU’s capacity as a reliable maritime security provider,” the EU memo said.

Europe’s flagship anti-piracy operation, Atalanta in the Horn of Africa, has drastically reduced piracy compared to 10 years ago.

But Atalanta, on which CMP was partly modelled, risked being ejected from Somalia’s waters, in a setback to Western efforts to counter piracy in the area, another EU memo from 5 January revealed.

EU pilot mission in the Gulf of Guinea was partly modelled on Atalanta operation in the Horn of Africa.

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Niger Delta boat operators lament incessant pirate attacks despite N5,000 daily tip to police

The Association of Boat Owners in Calabar Tuesday has lamented the activities of pirates, which it said were destroying water transportation between Cross River and Akwa Ibom.

While reacting to reports of an Oron-bound boat from Calabar that was hijacked along the waterways on January 17, a member of the association, who sought anonymity, said such event was no longer news to them.

Speaking to journalists at the Calabar Oron jetty, he said a similar event happened in the first week of December 2021, when five people were abducted by the pirates.

The abductors released their victims days later, including both those who had ransom to pay and those who didn’t.

 “We have not gotten anything from the abductors, but we are hopeful that the victims will be released,” he said.

“It is sad that we still face this challenge even though we give N5,000 every day to the police to ensure that the waterways are secured,” he said.

“The painful aspect is that when these kidnaps happen, the boats are not released even after the victims have been released and the engines of these boats cost as much as N5 million.

He stated that the same issue of piracy and abductions which has been occurring for years almost led to the close-up of businesses in 2014.

“Between 2018 and 2019, we had to shut down this Calabar Oron Jetty for over a month, in protest at the constant abductions along the waterways before the police and navy provided gunboats that were stationed at different points.

Responding, Irene Ugbo, the police spokesperson in Cross River said she was not sure yet about the incident and that she had called the Officer-in-Charge of Marine about the issue, but said no one had reported the matter to the police.

“According to her, “the union leaders are supposed to come and report.

“Nevertheless, he said, they were on the matter and the area was being combed by policemen on the ground,” she said.

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