—-an update on piracy incidents in Gulf of Guinea
A U.N. resolution last week condemned piracy in the Gulf of Guinea — the most dangerous piracy hot spot in the world.
Our research finds that piracy incidents in West African waters also tended to be more violent than elsewhere, as fighting on land, especially in and around the Niger Delta, appeared to spill out onto the water, as shown in the figure below.
A January 2021 incident involving the Liberian-flagged ship MV Mozart near São Tomé and Príncipe left one seaman dead.
The incident occurred approximately 180 kilometers off São Tomé Island and 375 kilometers from Nigeria, making it one of the farthest offshore attacks to date in the Gulf of Guinea.
Yet the MV Mozart attack was followed by a dramatic decline in piracy off Nigeria, with incidents in 2021 dropping nearly 50 percent from 2020 levels.
There have been five incidents per month in the first quarter of 2022. What, if anything, has changed?
Improving maritime security
But international aid, regional cooperation and local investments in building maritime security capacity may be finally paying off.
The United States and Europe contribute to maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Funding for port security enhancements, information sharing, law enforcement training and capacity building are all intended to help ensure peace and promote economic prosperity.
E.U. countries and the United States have increasingly deployed naval vessels to the region to combat organized criminal groups targeting commercial transport ships.
The United States hosts multinational naval exercises in the Gulf of Guinea that is meant to improve counter-piracy operations and impede illegal fishing.
Regionally, West African governments have collaborated on efforts to secure the gulf against transnational organized crime.
The compact’s goal is to identify and apprehend criminal groups, protect seafarers and deter would-be pirates.
Fights over marine boundaries are creating safe zones for pirates
Five West African countries have established multinational maritime coordination centers, with additional operational bureaus set up in each of the 19 countries bordering the gulf.
If maritime boundaries once protected illegal fishers and pirates from capture, improved information sharing and subsequent coordinated actions by West African navies now render cross-border escapes more dubious.
Will Deep Blue help?
The Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure project, popularly known as Deep Blue, commits substantial resources to combat piracy, oil theft, smuggling and illegal fishing.
Deep Blue funding has supplied coastal patrol vehicles, interceptor boats and reconnaissance aircraft that all contribute to a vessel-protection mission.
In July 2021, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari also commissioned a surveillance system to provide a comprehensive picture of Nigeria’s maritime environment to inhibit criminal activity.
Additional troops deployed on land in Nigeria may help pursue criminal groups and their assets.
Will Deep Blue work? Bashir Jamoh, Director General of Nigeria’s Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA)credited the deployment of Deep Blue assets for the decline in Gulf of Guinea piracy in 2021.
He also acknowledged assistance from regional governments, the shipping industry and foreign navies.
In August 2020, a Nigerian court sentenced the first three pirates under this law for the hijacking of an Equatorial Guinean cargo ship.
Still, recent counter-piracy operations by European warships don’t appear to have involved the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency — which is somewhat troubling if Nigeria’s new assets and closer communication are key to maritime security in the region.
Ship attacks and crew abductions may be down in West African waters, but the decline can only partly be attributed to Deep Blue.
European and U.S. naval deployments and improved regional collaboration probably matter more when it comes to curbing maritime crime.
Of course, better policing at sea doesn’t address socio-economic challenges on land that help drive piracy.
But addressing these broader challenges, experts point out, will also require assistance from the international community.
Tin Can Customs nets N574.3 billion in 2022 —–records N242.365 billion in exports
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.
CBN succumbs to pressure, extends use of old naira notes to February 10
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.
”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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