In its quarterly report on maritime piracy, The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) declared that the Gulf of Guinea remains dangerous for seafarers, accounting for nearly half of all reported piracy incidents in the first quarter.
Timeline of recent attacks on seafarers by pirates
December 2020: Danish Shipping Company, Maersk was attacked off the West African coast by ‘criminals’ while travelling from Tema in Ghana to Kribi in Cameroon.
January 2021: Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, called for military intervention in the piracy problem in the Gulf of Guinea, which had made the gulf the new global headquarters for piracy
January 2021: According to the International Maritime Bureau in its 2020 Annual Piracy report, West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea recorded an unprecedented increase in piracy attacks in 2020.
January 23, 2021: The Liberia-flagged container ship V/S Mozart was attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. There were 19 crewmembers in the vessel, 1 killed, 15 kidnapped. The ship arrived at Port-Gentil at Gabon at 11:00 TRT with 3 remaining crew members.
But according to a report released in July 2021, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea fell to its lowest since Q2 2019, in the last quarter. IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC) reported the region led globally with 32% of all reported incidents and accounted for all 50 kidnapped crew and the single crew fatality recorded during the first half of 2021.
In October 2021, the International Maritime Bureau (IBM) reported that global piracy cases dropped to the lowest level since 1994. Gulf of Guinea region recorded 28 incidents of piracy and armed robbery in the first nine months of 2021, in comparison to 46 for the same period in 2020, with the Nigerian area recording only 4 related cases for the same period.
Efforts made by the Nigerian government and stakeholders
In July 2021, a Federal High Court in Lagos convicted 10 men under a new law designed to combat the rising piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The suspects were handed 12-year prison sentences after they were captured in May 2020 during a forceful boarding of a Chinese fishing vessel off the Ivorian coastline and kidnapping the crew member.
NIMASA’s Chief, Dr Bashir Jamoh attributed the positive development to the bringing together of maritime response authorities through initiatives like Nigeria’s Deep Blue Project and Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum which will continue to strengthen knowledge sharing channels and reduce risk to seafarers in the region.
NIMASA also introduced new measures to check security threats in the Nigerian maritime industry, as ship captains operating in Nigeria are now required to submit the Security-Related Pre-Arrival Information (SRPA) forms to the agency not later than 48 hours before the ship’s arrival at any Nigerian port. All ships are also expected to maintain 24 hours vigilance and surveillance to detect strange movements, including small boats and skiffs that may not be captured by the radar.
Also, in August, US Navy ship, USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, arrived in Lagos to enable Nigeria in the fight against piracy. US Consul General, Claire Pierangelo said that the ship would be permanently assigned to Africa as a sign of the U.S government’s mission to fight piracy in the Gulf.
Nigeria’s efforts alongside working with its global allies greatly reduced piracy in the region as sea piracy activities at Nigeria’s Gulf of Guinea waters fell by as much as 80% in 2021, one of Nigeria’s bright spots in the fight against insecurity.
Customs, UN agency collaborate to fight smuggling
“On behalf of the entire Management Team of the Nigeria Customs Service, I wish to inform you that we will partner with you in this campaign, and we will grant you all forms of support you may need to carry out this campaign — and I want to assign one of our amiable DCGs, Abba Kura, to work with you closely.”
He appreciated how they traveled from afar to inform the Nigeria Customs Service of their campaign against smuggling, which, according to him, the Nigeria Customs Service has already started yielding positive results in suppressing the menace of smuggling.
The CGC also welcomed Dr Raymond’s offer to engage officers and men of the Service in capacity—building to enhance their understanding of digital literacy skills, adding that the Service has already started embracing technology to advance its work by introducing related courses to officers.
The CGC appreciated the collaborative effort between the Nigeria Customs Service and UN—Habitat and believes that the collaboration signifies a commitment to tackling smuggling and enhancing trade facilitation in the nation, setting the stage for a more prosperous future.
He also appreciated their pledge to train officers and men of the Service in digital literacy skills, assuring that the Service will continue to prioritize proficiency in the fight against smuggling through a technological approach.
He underscored the importance of digital skills, promising that the relevant Service department will enhance trade facilitation.
On his part, the Director of UN—Habitat, Dr. Raymond Edoh, appreciated President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for reposing the responsibility of heading the Nigeria Customs Service on the Acting Comptroller-General, describing him as “a competent Customs officer who knows the terrain and masters the job.”
According to him, they decided to visit the Ag. CGC at the Customs Headquarters to express their interest in partnering with the Service.
He appreciated the Service for being a “gatekeeper of the country” that protects citizens against border threats, stressing that his organization will collaborate with NCS to mitigate the smuggling of illicit goods and train officers and men of Customs on digital literacy skills and certification.
UN-Habitat is the United Nations entity responsible for developing urban policies and translating them into action to create sustainable cities and promote viable urban development and adequate shelter for all.
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