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EU offers support for ECOWAS’ fight against maritime insecurity in West Africa

—donates euro 5.4million worth of equipment to coastal states

Eyewitness reporte

The European Union has offered financial and moral support to the ECOWAS Commission in its figt against maritime insecurity in the sub region.
At the two-day  high-level maritime security seminar held from 4th to 5th April, 2022 at the ECOWAS headquarters, Abuja, Nigeria, the EU announced a donation of 30 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) and other security equipment worth  euro 5.4 million to combat maritime crimes in the coast of ECOWAS Countries.
The seminar was organised in the framework of the European Union-funded Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security (SWAIMS) project.
The boats and equipment were provided under the EU-funded ECOWAS project tagged the Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security (SWAIMS) project, a multi-component, regional initiative implemented in all 15 ECOWAS countries.
Col. Abdourahmane Dieng, the Head of ECOWAS’ Regional Security Division said that Maritime insecurity had long been one of the most persistent and intractable threats to maritime communities and economic prosperity in West Africa.
Dieng, however, said that West African countries require a whole of coordinated response to tackle the scourge of attacks, piracy and armed robberies against the vessels.“For that, we have developed an ECOWAS integrated maritime strategy around five pillars to ensure security in the fifteen member states within ECOWAS maritime domain.
“And also reinforce our capacity in terms of managing our maritime environment and also developing our capacity in terms of blue economy, and also develop our culture in terms of maritime.
“We are receiving support from our partners, the main partner coming in is the European Union and today we are also here together with SWAIMS to try to capacitate the member states.“
By providing them with Rigid Inflatable boats that allow the Member states to fight against illegal fishing through some paroling in the maritime domain.
“Today, all the Member States are represented by their relevant agencies and also representatives to discuss draft an agreement for the sharing of the Rigid Inflatable boats.
“And also try to develop the modalities of the way to capacitate the member states to be able to use them today,” Dieng said.
Dr Axel Klien, SWAIMS Representative said that the Seminar was part of a wider programme to support Maritime security in the ECOWAS region.
Klien said that the Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats would be provided to the Navy and coast guards of all 12 coastal ECOWAS member states and the provision of equipment to the maritime operation centres.
This he explained would help to curb maritime crimes and piracy which had ravaged the coastal lines of ECOWAS Countries.
“There are different types of Maritime crimes, there are piracy and armed robbery, there are also illegal fishing, and there are the trade-in illicit goods.
“So, against all these crimes, the coast guards, the police, the law enforcement agencies, the prosecuting services, they need to be provided with the equipment.
“What we are talking about today here is providing to ECOWAS, with funding from the European Union are thirty digital inflatable boats that can go out into the sea and catch the perpetrators.
“And, also the forensic equipment and communications and other equipment that will help the maritime centres coordinate these operations.“
“If you look at the numbers of piracy incidents in these regions, you will find that all the different efforts by navies and coast guards and international partners have been successful in reducing the numbers.
“So, we need to build on that success by strengthening the security system that is in place at the moment.
“International cooperation is critical and here is why ECOWAS is playing a valuable role for its multinational coordination centres, the exchange of information and the coordination of expenses,” Klien said.
Amb. Joao Almeida, President Camoes Institute, who lauded the programme said, the institution was excited to have been charged by the European Union to implement the project.
Almedia expressed optimism that the boats and equipment when handed over would achieve their purpose of combatting all forms of maritime crimes in the region.
“We have been charged by the European Union to be the implementors of the project that we are going to have here.“We are going to discuss how to go ahead with the MOU among the 12 states of ECOWAS,” Almedia said.
The seminar reviewed and refined modalities for the distribution of essential maritime security equipment across ECOWAS’ littoral countries.
The meeting agreed that turning the tide against maritime insecurity is a collaborative effort that no single country or region can tackle alone.
For this reason, ECOWAS, in conjunction with the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), formulated the Yaoundé Code of Conduct as a foundation for broad-based regional maritime security along the entire Gulf of Guinea.

 But the security partnership goes beyond Africa, embracing the European Union (EU) and other key international players geographically outside the Gulf of Guinea because the Gulf is of global importance as a crucial international maritime route.

“The EU is a committed partner to the Gulf of Guinea region and will continue to provide extensive and targeted assistance to strengthen the critical features of the Yaoundé security architecture, further cementing the long-standing relationship between ECOWAS and the EU,” affirmed Ambassador Nicolas Berlanga Martinez, the EU Senior Coordinator for the Gulf of Guinea, who will attend the event in person.

Among these efforts is the EU-funded ECOWAS project tagged SWAIMS, a collaborative, complex, multi-component, regional initiative implemented by various partners, and covering all 15 ECOWAS countries.SWAIMS is helping organise the high-level maritime security seminar bringing together representatives from the 12 coastal ECOWAS countries: Benin, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea-Conakry, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo.

In attendance at the strategic seminar are high-level officials from the Ministries of Defence (mostly the Navy), Transport (mostly Maritime Agencies) and Foreign Affairs.
 The boats and forensic equipment will be supplied to coastal ECOWAS countries by Portugal’s Camões, IP.
 Camões, working closely with the Portuguese Navy, will also provide related training and maintenance.
“In financial terms, the delivery of RHIBs and forensic equipment worth more than 5 million euros is the most significant component of the SWAIMS project,” observed Dr Axel Klein, SWAIMS Team Leader.

 The boats and equipment will significantly enhance the capacity of beneficiary countries to enforce the rule of law in their territorial waters and adjoining exclusive economic zones.

SWAIMS adopts a pragmatic and holistic approach to enhancing maritime security.

Equipment supply is not only a crucial extension but also a logical follow-up to the other SWAIMS components that – through the training of personnel, the drafting of standard operating procedures, and the strengthening of the legal framework – have engendered the necessary preconditions for efficient and effective use of the equipment.

Besides Camões, other SWAIMS implementing partners assuring these various preconditions are Institut de sécurité maritime interregional in Côte d’Ivoire, Regional Maritime University in Ghana, ECOWAS’ Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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I want to bequeath fully automated ports to Nigerian shipping industry–Bello Koko 

Bello-Koko, NPA MD

Eyewitness reporter

Mohammed Bello-Koko, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has expressed his passion and uncommon commitment to leaving a fully automated port system as his legacy after he bows out of office.

Bello- Koko, whose ascension to the NPA’s highest office was as dramatic as it was eventful, said port automation, which is the latest trend in the world, especially, the Port system, is central to his administration in the NPA.

Koko, who spoke Saturday 14th, May 2022 during his maiden press conference, expressed his belief that a fully automated port system will translate to efficiency, low costs, and improved revenue.

In a no hold- barred interactive session with journalists, the NPA helmsman shared his vision of robust port processes hinged on automation devoid of human interaction.

“When I came in, even though in an acting capacity, I held retreat first with the management staff and then the board during which I had to explain my vision of automated port system to them.
“I did this because I needed to get them to work with me and secured their buy-in.
“And it worked.
“Port system is dynamic so there must be a change in policies and focus.
Talking about the legacy he wished to bequeath to the industry, the banker- turned port administrator, explained that his desire is to fully automate the port system which he believed is the backbone of efficiency.
“I would want to see our ports fully automated. Automation is the backbone of efficiency in our ports.
”  It will achieve improved revenue. It will achieve a lot of things we want to achieve. I am really really interested in getting this done.

“We have so much automation done in isolation and we need to integrate them.

“We need to put up something that everybody will love to log into. We need to copy a system that is being used in other developed countries, something that will add value, something that everyone agrees with and that is the port community system and harbour automation.
“I am looking forward to a legacy of rehabilitated port infrastructures with the right marine equipment and that is something we have started working on already.

“Discussions have started in terms of designs, we have gotten the full design of the Tin Can port, how it is going to be reconstructed, what is the likely cost of reconstructing Tin CAN, what are we going to do with some parts of Apapa port.

“We have approached BUA to start reconstruction. The same process is on in the Rivers ports where some of the infrastructures have collapsed.

“If we are able to do this, then we have achieved quite a lot.

Apart from port automation, Koko beloved that he needs efficient and committed staff who are well motivated to drive the reformation agenda.

So he declared that improved staff welfare is another area he wants to work on while in office.

“Staff welfare is very important to me which I want to pay special attention to. All these things are the legacies I want to leave behind when I exit as the Managing Director of NPA” he declared.

The NPA MD, who gave a blow-by-blow account of the challenges and prospects of bequeathing a reformed port process, believed that the core function of the NPA was trade facilitation.

However, he lamented that since the agency has been turned into a revenue-generating agency, it has lost focus on this vital core function of trade facilitation while pursuing revenue generation

“NPA is about trade facilitation.

“The core responsibility of every port in the world is to facilitate trade.

“Until that is very clear, then there was a problem, and then to facilitate trade, that is when other things came in.

“While the NPA has been turned into a major revenue earner for the federal government of Nigeria, gradually, some of our responsibilities are impossible to carry out because there is more focus on the contribution to the CRF, which is fine.

“What it does for us is it makes us reduce costs and generate more.

He then extensively dwelt on the efforts of his management to reinvent the wheel of making NPA more of a trade facilitator than a revenue earner.

“For you to ensure that this trade facilitation succeeds,  you need to meet with your stakeholders.

“One of the things we did was to start to reach out to the stakeholders that were difficult to relate with.

“The port environment is a conglomerate of so many players.

” You need the Customs, SON, plant quarantine, the shipping companies which we do not regulate but are regulated by the shippers’ council and the terminal operators for you to succeed.

“That was the first thing we did and we set a goal for ourselves, which is what are those things we need to do in order to improve trade facilitation.

“It is only when you do that that you start to have a better flow of traffic, shorter dwell time of cargo, and quick turn around time of ships.

“And we reached out to as far as the Nigerian Navy with whom we are able to resolve some issues that we were not able to resolve for over 20 years.

“We just humbled ourselves and decided that we would reach out to everybody.

“We also realised that the modern ports are all moving toward automation, and automation cannot be in batches but there has to be full automation.

“Once there is manual interference in some of the things you do, then you haven’t fully been automated and because of that, we wrote to the IMO to help us consult. We are about to deploy the port community system.

“The port community system is an avenue which ensures that all stakeholders, all the players in the port processes, log into the system of exchange of data and processes.

“The good thing is that it doesn’t disturb the automation processes of individual agencies or stakeholders, such as e-customs and that was why we got the stakeholders to buy into it.

“We are upgrading our RIMS, you all know the problems of downloading manifest and we are going to deploy harbour automation.

“The IMO has mandated all ports to deploy such IT and soft wares by 2025, our target is 2023, maximum early 2024.

“We reached out to NLG. We have been trying to deploy VTS  for about 10 years now but since we came, it was one of the major challenges.

“You can’t get qualified people to deploy VTS, they are very few.

“We wrote to IMO, they gave us some companies which could not meet our requirements while some of them were not interested in working with NPA.

“However, NLG has a VTR in Bonny, even though it is not robust.

“We do not have a problem in collaborating and in the last few months, we have been meeting with the NLG so that they do the survey and put the moles and the sensors around the country.

“It is one of the most important things in the maritime industry now, worldwide.

“We should be able to have visibility without seeing the ship and it would be a tremendous achievement and I believe we can achieve it within the year.

“Our RIM is also being updated and we ensure that people keep using those applications that we have which have reduced manual processes.

“As a result, things are improving, speed is improving. We have been able to block revenue leakages.

“However, we have old ports, we can all attest to that.  The problem with the Eastern ports is decaying infrastructures while Tin Can island port is practically collapsing.

“We have decided to focus our budget on the rehabilitation of those decaying infrastructures.

“We took a holistic look at these decaying infrastructures and came to the conclusion that we need to rehabilitate Tin can, Apapa, and other ports.

Having reeled out his vision for a new port system, he then dared whoever cared to listen that he should be held responsible and accountable over his vision for the Nigerian ports.

“You can hold me responsible for any of these things ” he declared in a measured tone that betrayed his confidence and determination to succeed.

He promised to collaborate with relevant stakeholders and lending agencies to achieve his set objectives

“I will work with the relevant agencies, investors, and lending agencies who are interested in lending, either directly or indirectly.

” Some of them just need a guarantee from the NPA  to hold us responsible for any default,” he stated.
Bello-Koko was named Acting Managing Director of NPA in May 2021 following the suspension of the erstwhile Managing Director, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman while he was made a substantive MD in February 2022.
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EFCC  discovers  academy where Yahoo boys are trained

Suspected Yahoo academy students
—arrests proprietor, 16 trainees in Abuja
Owolola Adebola 

Operatives of the Abuja Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), have arrested one Afolabi Samad, owner of a Yahoo Yahoo Academy in Abuja.

The 24-year-old was arrested Thursday, May 12, 2022, in a sting operation alongside 16 of his students.

 The youngsters between the ages of 18 and 27 years were arrested at their hideout located in Peace Court Estate, Lokogoma, a suburb of Abuja.

The owner of the alleged Academy rented the 3 bedroom flat for Three Million Naira to impact the tricks of cyber-frauds on his apprentices for undisclosed fees.

Item recovered from the suspects include laptops, phones, charms and two vehicles: a Lexus RX350 and Toyota Highlander.

The suspects will be charged to court as soon as investigations are concluded.

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PSTT seeks partnership with NARTO, MWUN to end traffic gridlock

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