Urgent need to tackle menace of pirate attacks on Nigerian waters

Nigerian waters have gained global notoriety of being the hot bed for pirate attacks and sea robberies in the world.

Every year, the International Maritime Bureau  (IMB) releases cold and chilling statistics of killings, kidnappings and violent robbery attacks in the Gulf of Guinea of which Nigeria is a dominant player.
For as many years back as our memory could be stretched, Nigerian waters have recorded ascending cases of pirate attacks which have made them highly dangerous for vessels to navigate.
As recent as the first quarter of 2018, the IMB declared that out of 66 attacks recorded globally under the period, Nigeria accounted for 22 of them.

Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the government agency charged with the responsibility of ensuring security and Safety at sea, corroborated the position of the global body when it declared that the country recorded 135 cases of piracy between 2015-2017.
Nigeriamaritime360.com finds this development unacceptable in a country which prides itself as the largest economy in Africa and also hopes to attract sea borne trade and other foreign investments into the country.

It is no gainsaying, that piracy hurts the economy of a nation. The largest chunk of international trade is sea borne and a nation such as Nigeria which exposes its waters to the menace of piracy would suffer the consequences. Such consequences have started to manifest. The indigenous ship owners have cried out that they lose one third of their earnings to pirates’ attacks.

According to Aminu Umar, the Chairman of Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), ship owners incur huge costs in hiring guards on board, pay security escorts, the cost of which was said to be as high as $30,000 per vessel, especially for those on the voyage to the restive Niger Delta region.
In addition, they pay huge insurance premium as insurance companies regard Nigeria waters as high risk zone.

Also, some countries, such as the United States of America (USA) often warn their flagged vessels coming to Nigeria to be wary of pirate attacks as Nigerian waters are dangerous.
We are saddened by these unsavoury accounts which we regard as a failure on the part of government, especially NIMASA and Nigerian Navy whose one of their core mandates is to safeguard out territorial waters.

This platform recognises the efforts which successive governments have been making to fight this menace, especially through the relevant agencies such as Navy and NIMASA.
But we noted, that, by the virtue of the unenviable tag which Nigeria waters are still decked as being regarded the most dangerous, presupposes that they are not doing enough.
Despite the claims of NIMASA and the numerous MOUs it signed with Navy, Airforce, pirates’ attacks are still on the ascendency.

This then makes us wonder what government has not done to effectively tackle this menace.
What has other countries done to minimise pirate attacks on their waters, since piracy is an international phenomenon, but which Nigeria has ignored to do?

First, government must have the political will power to fight this deadly phenomenon.
Fighting piracy, just like any form of insecurity, goes beyond rhetoric and grand standing.
With the right attitude, political will and zeal to fight the menace, then government will be able to strengthen and empower the agencies responsible for this function for effectiveness.
Nigeria Navy should be well equipped to take up this onerous task while NIMASA should be equally empowered for effective collaboration with the Navy.

Nigeriamaritime 360.com noted with concern, the dysfunctional state of the NIMASA’s multi- million dollar Strategic Surveillance System.
This equipment, installed in 2014, has cloud penetrating radar capabilities to detect movement and activities of ships, boats and other crafts operating on Nigerian waters.
However, since the equipment became inactive due to absence of qualified personnel to operate it, Nigeria waters came under heavy pirate attacks especially from 2015 till date.
We urged the management of NIMASA to get qualified personnel that will put the equipment to use.

Beyond rejuvenating our internal security organs to take on the dare devil pirates, this platform also urges NIMASA management to engage technologically advanced countries in what we call strategic partnership and alliance that will create necessary synergy to fight piracy.

The world is a global village and no nation is an island unto itself.  Such international collaboration will engender information sharing which could lead to the abortion of some of these attacks before they are carried out.
That is why this platform wants the critical stakeholders to view the Israeli option of securing our waters dispassionately.
We share the fears of the critics of the Israeli security contract, but we want to caution that we should not be in a hurry to throw away the baby with birth water.
The advantages of the controversial contract, to our mind, far outweigh its demerits.
What we advise is that government should be sincere, open and transparent with the terms, conditions and costs of the contract which should not be shrouded in secrecy.
Secrecy breeds suspicion, which to our mind explains the general outcry against an otherwise good move.
The Israelis,  globally acknowledged for their military intelligence and technology, would be a better option to train our Navy the modern technology in crime detection and interdiction.
However, the terms of agreement should be such that Nigeria would not hold the short end of the stick.

If Nigeria Navy does not embark on ego trip, they would gain more through transfer of the technology and modern method of intelligence gathering that the Israelis will avail them at the end of the contact.
In addition, we noted with concern, the security implication of the unrest in the Niger Delta region which exacerbates the problem of piracy on our waters.
The problem has assumed an international dimension such that shipping companies slam surcharge on vessels going to that area which has been declared a war zone in international shipping market.
It also attracts high insurance premium in addition to guards and escorts which shippers engage at high cost to safeguard their vessels on voyage to the region.
This has made the ports in the region unattractive to vessels and Nigerian importers.
This platform regards as political the Niger Delta problems which need political solutions.
We also noted with dismay, that, despite the high incidence of piracy, Nigeria does not have strong and robust anti-piracy laws.
Even though Dakuku Peterside, the Director-General of NIMASA, promised that the agency would send a bill for anti-piracy laws to the National Assembly, we are not sure if he has done so.

Also, we are aware of the move by the National Assembly to pass a bill that will impose maximum sentence of death penalty and life imprisonment on any person convicted of pirate attacks.
The bill got stuck at the second reading in the Senate.
Such was the bane of indecision and seriousness of the country to fight piracy.
We are good at rhetoric.
We therefore urge the National Assembly to unstick the bill and pass it to law, which to our mind, will greatly deter the perpetrators.
We also want to appeal to our judicial officers to be above board in adjudicating piracy-related cases.

It is one thing to have a strong laws against the menace, it is another to have  a disciplined and committed judiciary that would rise above any mundane and pecuniary interest to adjudicate in accordance with the law.
We strongly believe that if all the three arms of government show determination, commitment and political will to fight piracy, the menace will be reduced to the barest minimum.
It is then the international community will take the country serious and accord her the deserved respect in the comity of marine nations.

It is a sad thing to note that our recent loss of Category C elections in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) was as a result of the international negative perception of Nigeria as being unserious in its fight against piracy.

Dakuku Peterside acknowledged this much in his post elections loss lamentation.
Nigeria Maritime360.com therefore, urges that, all hands must be on deck to deal a final blow to this malignant menace that has for some long ravaged our waters.

 Culled from Nigeria Maritime360.com


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