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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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Customs

Tin Can Customs nets N574.3 billion in 2022 —–records N242.365 billion in exports

The Eyewitness reporter
The  Tin Can Command of the Nigeria Customs Service has realized a sum of N574.3 billion in 2022.
The Customs Area Controller (CAC), Tin Can Island Port Command, Comptroller Olakunle Oloyede, disclosed this at a news conference at weekend.

Oloyede said the figure represented an increase of N80.90 billion or 16.39 percent when compared with N493.4 billion recorded in 2021.

“This feat can be attributed to the constant rejigging of the existing measures geared toward sustaining the command’s revenue profile.

“It is as well as utilisation of some disruptive strategic measures such as: periodic capacity building, reshuffling and redeployment of officers using the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis and implementation of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) valuation,” he said.

He noted that the command also ensured robust and continuous stakeholder engagements and collaborations with all sister government agencies and maritime associations.

“These led to timely intelligence sharing, utilisation and voluntary compliance to government’s extant laws by the trading public,” Oloyede said.

He added that the command increased surveillance on declarations made in order to sniff out improper declarations as well as offending items.

He pointed out that the system paid off with the command recording a total of 38 seizures with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N1.85 billion.

“These seizures comprise 763kgs of Colorado (Cannabis Sativa) weighing 345.1kg with a street market value of N714.6 million only as given by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), 5 x 40 containers of used motor tyre (5,060 pieces).

“Also among seized items are 1,150 bales of second-hand clothing, 1,190 cartons of 20 per carton of potassium bromate and baking powder, 11,392 cartons of 1,200 per carton Pharmacol injection chloroquine phosphate 322.5mg.5ml (IV and IM), 206,000 pieces of finished machetes.

“Also, 1,383 cartons of 50 rolls per carton of cigarettes, 650 cartons of 50 pieces per carton of new ladies shoes, 2,666 pieces in 36 pallets of new starter Ex-Premium Inverter Battery, 1,980 cartons of assorted non-alcoholic beverages and 1,048 cartons of Tilda basmati rice,” he said.

Oloyede listed others as 2,594 pieces of ammunition and 20 pieces of arms comprising of one pistol with 611090 (S/W) model JCP 40mm, one used Co2 air pistol with accessories cal 117(4.5m)BM, one marksman repeater pistol, six Mace pepper gun and 10 suspected arms of various types.

He said that the seizures when compared with the 2021 record of 27 seizures with a Debit Note of N607.27 only, show an increase of 11 seizures and N1.24 billion.

He said that the increase in the DPV rate could be associated with increased surveillance and intensified anti-smuggling drive, the high value of seized items and Naira depreciation that led to higher exchange rates on imported items.

“These prohibited items were seized and forfeited to the Federal Government in line with the provision of Sections 46 and 161 of the Customs & Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap 45 LFN 2004 and Absolute Prohibition List of CET 2022- 2026.

“The command pertinently acknowledges the prominent roles played by the Customs Intelligence Unit, Valuation Unit, Federal Operations Unit, CGC Strike Force as well as interventions of Sister Regulatory Agencies like the NDLEA, Standards Organisation of Nigeria SON, the Nigeria Police and others in ensuring these seizures and detentions were made.

“A total of 60 suspects were detained in 2022 and were granted administrative bail while the command has 8 cases pending in court,” he said.

Oloyede said the command recorded a significant increase in the Free On Board (FOB) of exports in the period under review to the tune of $589,696,648 (N242,365,322,333.00) as against the $496,075,796 (N141,985,109,159.00) recorded in 2021.

He attributed the increase of 34.4 percent in the FOB to the high quality and value of exported commodities.

“However, the export report shows a decrease in tonnage of export from 1,723,986.8 in 2021 to 336,179.5 in 2022.

“The decrease in tonnage could be connected to current government fiscal policy which prohibited the export of wood and wood products as well as the global unrest with its concomitant economic challenges,” he said

He listed the commodities exported through the command to include: cocoa beans, insecticides, dried ginger, empty bottles, soya beans, cashew nuts, cigarettes, rubbers, cocoa butter, frozen shrimps, copper ingots, aluminum ingots, sesame seeds and other manufactured items.

“Cocoa beans were the highest exported commodity while the legend stout was the least exported commodity.

“The future of export in the command looks brighter as the command in line with the headquarter circular on Export Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) released a Port Order on the Command’s harmonised SOP for the seamless facilitation of Export Trade in strict compliance with Extant Laws and guidelines on Export,” he said.

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Economy

CBN succumbs  to pressure, extends use of old naira notes to February 10

The Eyewitness reporter
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has finally caved in to Public outcry over the February 1st deadline for the use of old naira notes when on Sunday, the apex bank announced February 10 as the new date.
Announcing the new deadline in a statement, Governor Central Bank Of Nigeria(CBN), Godwin Emefiele, said the decision to add extra 10 days was “to allow for the collection of more old notes”

Up till Saturday, CBN had insisted on the 31st January deadline for the validity of the old N200, N500 and N1,000 despite overwhelming complaints that the notes are either not available or in short supply in the banks or their Automated Teller Machines.

Last October, Emefiele announced the Naira redesign policy which entails the issuance of new notes to replace the existing N200, N500 and N1,000 series.

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Customs

”No container will leave Apapa Port without 100 percent physical examination”

 

declares Auwal Mohammed as he takes over as new Apapa Customs Area controller

—promises to surpass N1 trillion revenue mark

—vows not to facilitate non-compliant traders

 

The Eyewitness reporter

Despite the deployment of cargo scanning machines, the new area comptroller of the Apapa command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Auwal Mohammed, has vowed that no container shall leave the Apapa port without a 100 percent physical examination.

Comptroller Mohammed, who formally took over the mantle of leadership of the command Friday, 27th, January 2023, from Ag. Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs(ACG) Malanta Ibrahim Yusuf, said that the decision to subject all cargo to physical examination was meant to account for every content of container passing through the command and to maximize revenue returns to the Federal Government.

He, therefore, warned non-compliant traders to steer clear of the command as he would not facilitate their trade as he desired to surpass the one trillion revenue mark achieved by the command under the former area controller Yusuf.

”We shall continue to conduct 100 percent physical examination of cargo so that we can account for all the cargo in the containers and to generate more revenue so that we can surpass the one trillion revenue collection that the command has already achieved. No package, no container should leave Apapa port without a proper 100 percent physical examination.” the new Comptroller told his officers who had gathered to welcome him.

He continued ”Today marks another era in the history of the Apapa command of the Nigeria Customs Service. I am inheriting a well-structured area command. The level of achievements and status achieved under my predecessor will be sustained while I will look for all means to surpass them.

I am ready for the job. I am aware of the big shoe I am stepping into but I am well prepared for it”, Comptroller Mohammad said.

He, therefore, asked the officers to be at their utmost best to cooperate and work with him to sustain and surpass the legacies of his predecessor.

He also solicited the support and cooperation of stakeholders whom he promised to engage with and updated frequently on all issues and policies that will enhance their trade and performance of the command.

The new helmsman also charged all the releasing officers and the image analysts who will be conducting the scanning of cargo to be diligent and exhibit the utmost sense of responsibility and professionalism in their duty so as not to release uncustomed goods.

Mohammed, who was redeployed from Onne Port Area Command when he was the area controller, also enjoined the importers and their agents to be compliant with the cargo clearance procedural processes in order to enjoy a seamless cargo release.

”The goods clearance procedure is simple. Everything starts and ends with declaration and if there is a proper and correct declaration of cargo, there won’t be any need for delay and unnecessary interference with the process”, he admonished.

Earlier, the outgoing Area Controller, Ag. Yusuf, while handling over the operations and procedures of the command to his successor, solicited the support and cooperation of all the officers and other stakeholders for the new helmsman, urging them to avail the new comptroller of the same level of support, guidance, and cooperation and advice they gave him.

He also lauded the untiring efforts of his officers whom he said were instrumental in the monumental achievements recorded by the command under his watch.

Consequently, some officers who excelled in the discharge of their duties were commended and awarded certificates of merit, including the indefatigable Public Relations officer of the Command, CSC Abubakar Usman.

 

 

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