President Muhammadu Buhari has asked for the collective efforts of stakeholders in the maritime sector to rid the Nigerian waters of emerging security threats.
The president made this call on Monday at the first-ever Global Maritime Security Conference in Abuja.
The event aims to facilitate a clearer understanding of the challenges of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea region, develop fitting solutions and coordinate efforts at strengthening regional and international collaborations to stifle maritime threats in the region.
Mr Buhari said statistics indicate that efforts to eradicate the menace by the governments of the region are yielding result, citing the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting centre.
The report said there have been “a welcome and marked decrease in attacks in the Gulf of Guinea for the second quarter of 2019.” He commended the Nigerian Navy “for actively responding to reported incidents by dispatching patrol boats.”
The president who was represented by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Zubairu Dada, reiterated the need for a joint effort to tackle the threats. He said security in the region is vital to global trade, in view of the fact that many critical trade routes connecting the continent to the rest of the world run through the gulf.
He also said safety and security of sea transportation are critical for seamless trade and effective economic integration, especially now that Africa is forging ahead with the phase two negotiations for the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA).
Mr Buhari said maritime security in the region depends on collective efforts and the ability of the countries to put in place international, continental, regional and national frameworks and resources in cooperation with critical stakeholders.
“I am pleased to announce to you that Nigeria has put in place a suppression of piracy and other maritime offences Act which I signed into law on the 24th of June 2019.”
The law, the first standalone anti-piracy law in the Gulf of Guinea, aims to ensure safe and secure shipping at sea, prosecute violations and prohibit piracy.
“The Act seeks to give further credence to the relevant international treaties of the nations and international maritime organisation ratify by Nigeria and the continental and regional treaties subscribed to on maritime safety and security,” he said.
In addition to the Act, the Nigerian leader said his administration has also put in place an integrated national surveillance and waterway protection solution with command and control infrastructure.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, said the absence of legal frameworks within member states seems to be a significant challenge in the regional effort to stem the tide of maritime insecurity.
Mr Amaechi, who was represented by the Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki, also said the Act will help to tackle and repress insecurity in the Nigerian Maritime domain.
“An integrated maritime security architecture has also been em-placed with a command and control center for effective policing of the Nigerian waters.
“The initiative encompasses three main components:
A C4-I Intelligence system to enhance domain awareness;acquisition of land, air and marine assets for patrols, quick response and interdiction; and the retraining and capacity building of military response teams to effectively respond to threats and incidents within the maritime domain,” he said.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok-Ete Ibas, also at the event said there is a need for improved collaboration and enforcement of maritime security laws by regional partners and stakeholders towards enhanced maritime security within the region.
“While acknowledging some gains of such efforts, this conference presents yet another opportunity to harness collaborative initiatives towards curbing the maritime security challenges in the region with greater urgency,” he said.