Africa Must Collaborate To Tackle Security, Maritime Challenges, Says Osinbajo

Nigeria’s Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, says African countries must collaborate to tackle security and maritime challenges.

Osinbajo spoke at the Nigerian Navy International Maritime Conference 2018 held at the naval dockyard, Lagos State, on Thursday, 31st may, 2018.

He said, “Gulf of Guinea States have, of course, long recognized that Security in the Gulf of Guinea is both a challenge to maritime safety and a significant threat to the economic prosperity of our States. From the rise in maritime insurance premiums for vessels coming to the Gulf of Guinea to increased freight and reduced commercial traffic to the region, it has always been clear that it is in our national and regional interests to collaborate, to tackle the problems that we confront in the maritime domain of the Gulf of Guinea.

“In addition, Member States’ of the Gulf of Guinea Commission have made individual efforts to improve the capacity and capability of their Navies, and other relevant Agencies to enable them perform their duties more effectively. This has been well complemented by the establishment of Regional Centres for Maritime Security by the Regional Economic Communities, ECOWAS and ECCAS. This effort is itself capped by the establishment of the Inter-regional Coordination Centre based in Yaounde, Cameroon.”

Below is the full text of his speech:

PROTOCOLS

It is a special pleasure to be here to represent and to bring you the warm felicitations of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, on this 62nd anniversary of our illustrious Navy.

It is in keeping with the acknowledged patriotism and sense of duty of our Navy that you have chosen to commemorate this special day with a Conference on a subject of utmost and pressing importance to our Nation, our region and the maritime world — the security of the Gulf of Guinea.

And really we can hardly overemphasize the importance of the subject of this conference.  The Gulf of Guinea is perhaps one of the most strategic maritime geographies in the world. On account of its proximity to the European and North American markets, the Gulf of Guinea has been an important route for container ships headed for Europe and America. Besides, the Gulf hosts one of the most important regions for oil and gas production and transportation.

It also contains some of the largest hydrocarbon deposits ever discovered. But in the past few years, the Gulf has experienced security challenges that have made it one of the most problematic maritime spaces in the world.

In 2016, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) recorded 53 piracy attacks or attempted attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, representing 28% of worldwide attacks. The Gulf also accounted for more than 50% of the global kidnappings for ransom, with 34 seafarers kidnapped out of a total of 62 worldwide.

Besides, the trafficking of arms, drugs and persons, widespread unregulated and unreported fishing activities, severe environmental damage and pollution have remained constant challenges.

Gulf of Guinea States have, of course, long recognized that Security in the Gulf of Guinea is both a challenge to maritime safety and a significant threat to the economic prosperity of our States. From the rise in maritime insurance premiums for vessels coming to the Gulf of Guinea to increased freight and reduced commercial traffic to the region, it has always been clear that it is in our national and regional interests to collaborate, to tackle the problems that we confront in the maritime domain of the Gulf of Guinea.

The establishment of the Gulf of Guinea Commission-, the GGC- was an important initiative in this regard.   Permit me to reiterate the objectives of the Commission as contained in its Treaty signed in Libreville, Gabon, on the 3rd of July, 2001:

  1. Strengthening the ties of cooperation and solidarity existing among Member States;

2. Promoting close consultation in the exploitation of the natural resources of the gulf, with a view to ensuring the economic development of Member States and the well-being of our people;
3. Protecting, preserving and improving the natural environment of the Gulf of Guinea and cooperating in the event of natural disaster and;
4. Strengthening cooperation in the area of communications, especially maritime communications, with a view to facilitating ties and trade among Member States and their people.

But since Libreville, sub-regional and regional collaboration has continued in many important respects including;
1. The establishment of ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Security Strategy (EIMS);
2. The establishment of African Integrated Maritime Security Strategy (AIMS);
3. The four-Nation maritime security initiative, ZONE E, a multinational maritime security outfit in Cotonou;
4. The Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) based in Ivory Coast.

In addition, Member States’ of the Gulf of Guinea Commission have made individual efforts to improve the capacity and capability of their Navies, and other relevant Agencies to enable them perform their duties more effectively. This has been well complemented by the establishment of Regional Centres for Maritime Security by the Regional Economic Communities, ECOWAS and ECCAS. This effort is itself capped by the establishment of the Inter-regional Coordination Centre based in Yaounde, Cameroon.

The invaluable multifaceted collaboration of the US and the EU is worthy of mention. And these initiatives are commendable indeed.

But the destination of our journey to safety and stability in the Gulf is still a while away, which is why this conference is important. It is an opportunity to reopen the issues, to speak frankly on the governance issues in our States that conduce to some of the challenges we are experiencing; to explore the prospects of closer collaboration with friendly powers around the world, and to leave here with some concrete takeaways that would address the grave issues that confront us in the Gulf of Guinea.
I must commend the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral I.E Ibas, for this Initiative and his many other innovative and forward-looking ideas that he has brought to the leadership of the Nigerian Navy.

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, let me join the Nigerian Navy in welcoming our guests, especially those of Navies of friendly countries and our compatriots across the world. I hope you will find time to appreciate and enjoy the sights and sounds of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub, one of the most important coastal cities on the continent, and a city that has always been of strategic naval importance to Nigeria, and to West Africa and the world.

While also wishing you very fruitful deliberations today, it is my singular honour and pleasure to declare open the International Maritime Conference.

I thank you for your attention.

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