As part of concerted efforts to bring about credible and sustainable solution to the scourge of maritime insecurity in Africa‚Äôs maritime domain especially in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG), Nigeria has entered into partnership with the naval forces of Spain, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Germany, Saudi Arabia, United States of America, Cameroon, Malaysia, France, Dubai, Togo, Pakistan, Canada, Tanzania, South Asia, Netherlands, South Africa and 17 the naval forces of 17 other countries.
During the first of its kind maritime awareness partnership, which kicked-off Tuesday in Lagos, the naval forces of over 34 different countries that virtually relocated to Nigeria, pledged to take a united stand against the illegalities that take place in the maritime domain.
Tagged ‚Äò‚ÄôDelivering Maritime Security to Africa‚Äô‚Äô, the conference which was organised by the Nigerian Navy (NN), in partnership with the International Quality and Productivity Centre (IQPC), was instituted to address maritime insecurity in the GoG.
Also aimed at addressing the teething maritime insecurity awareness issues, the conference as well tilted towards proffering ways and means of building infrastructure and capacity towards combating the scourge.
The conference was attended by large number of naval chiefs and stakeholders including companies like International Bunkering, Dorman Long Engineering,¬† Suncraft, Thales, Aqua Shield Oil, Grup Aresa, amongst several others.
Some of the dignitaries at the event were the Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada; the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa‚Äôad Ibrahim; Chief of Army Staff, represented by the General Officer Commanding, 81 Division, Major General Obi Umahi, and the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh.
Others were the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar; the Chief of Policy and Plans, Naval Headquarters, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogbor; the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas and several other naval representatives of other countries.
In his speech, the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral
Dele Ezeoba, said the presence of the ‚Äúhighly placed‚Äù personalities across and outside Africa evokes an important message on the commitment towards finding solutions to the maritime threats.
He said, ‚ÄúPrimarily, the current security breaches in the maritime space around Africa is of serious concern to all of us gathered here as well as the larger African and global community.
‚ÄúWhat is perhaps more disturbing is that much of the activities associated with the evolving threat scenario around Africa‚Äôs maritime domain are directed at the economic lifeline of both littoral and landlocked states.
‚ÄúIn other words, the scourge of various forms of illegalities such as sea robbery, piracy, human trafficking, particularly pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft including degradation of the maritime environment constitute serious challenges to the development of Africa.‚Äù
He said for many African navies, one of the major implications of the emerging security equation is the increasing demand for maritime policing functions.
‚ÄúWhereas, the desired end state is essentially defined by the ability to emplace robust and effective awareness capabilities and patrol missions for enhanced maritime security thus providing the enabling environment for socio-economic growth and development of African States,‚Äù he added.
Ezeoba expressed regrets that the increasing necessity of policing operations particularly within the last decade has revealed the huge capability gap of African navies and coast guards in their ability to efficiently discharge their constitutional mandate.
He said, ‚ÄúI hope that this forum will also facilitate the much needed discourse towards identifying viable concepts and constructive action plans particularly in the area of relevant technologies and technical capacity development that would support these strategic level initiatives.‚Äù
The Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Obada, said the conference symbolised a strategic collaborative initiative between the Nigerian Navy and international maritime stakeholders.
She said it also signified the feasibility of a potent strategy and civil-military synergy to mitigate the increase of vulnerabilities in African waters, adding that economic opportunities abound in African waters.
Regrettably, she said ‚Äúthese economic prospects are threatened by the common challenge of rising insecurity in the collective maritime domain and as such, the initiative by the Nigerian Navy to build credible capacity that would guarantee maritime defend must be encouraged.‚Äù
Also speaking, Ghana‚Äôs Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Geoffrey Mawuli Biekro, called on navies in the sub-region to embrace partnerships to protect their respective maritime domains from being used to perpetuate¬† illegalities.
He said, ‚ÄúThe GoG has become one of the most dangerous maritime areas in the world and piracy and sea robbery has become one of the most potent threat.
‚ÄúTherefore, criminal gangs are taking advantage of our failure to collaborate at the operational and tactical levels. They commit offence in territorial waters of one country and then move to another country for protection.‚Äù
In his remarks, former CNS, Rear Admiral Allison Madueke, urged the navy to build on their successes achieved so far, adding that although funding must always be an issue, there should be a balance.
Although the specific role the individual naval force would play in the amalgamating security build-up on the GoG was not made public at the conference centre, there is no doubt that the convergence of the militaries of the participating countries at such a global scale to tackle the scourge of maritime criminality in the GoG would go a long way in restoring sanity in that axis and also boost investors‚Äô confidence in maritime business.¬†¬† ‚Äì¬† Chiemelie Ezeobi