Bassey Inyang in Calabar
Four countries comprising the ECOWAS Maritime Pilot Zone E; Republic of Benin, Nigeria, Niger, and Togo met in Calabar, Cross River State, yesterday to formally agree on the final operational plan and resource commitment towards securing the Gulf of Guinea from activities of criminals.
The inaugural meeting which was attended by Chiefs of the Naval Staff/Heads of Gendarmerie from the four countries, are expected to approve the plan drawn by experts in maritime security towards tackling oil theft, piracy and others criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea.
Addressing the opening session of the event which held at the Transcorp Metropolitan Hotel in Calabar, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, said: ‚ÄúIn West Africa, the maritime domain which accounts for significant economic recourses has in recent years been threatened by illicit activities such as oil bunkering, drug and human trafficking, illicit Unreported Unregulated Fishing (IUU), illegal migration, piracy attack, armed robbery at sea and toxic dumping among others. These criminal activities have resulted in huge losses of revenue in billions of dollars to coastal counties in the region.
‚ÄúTo address these myriad of challenges, the Authority of ECOWAS Head of State and Government during the 40th Session held in Abuja from 16 to 17 February, 2012 mandated the ECOWAS Commission to develop a holistic maritime policy framework to guide actions and cooperation within the West African region and to also strengthen collaboration with Economic Commission and all other relevant stakeholders.‚Äù
In his remarks, the Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Aliyu Gusau (rtd), said the prospect for optimal exploitation of resources from the maritime environment for sub-regional benefit is hampered by piracy and other transnational criminalities.
Gusau, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. Aliyu Sumaila, said pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft greatly affect the revenue generation drive, hence the need for a tight maritime security.
‚ÄúMaritime security is a cause for concern, given the export of oil from the Gulf of Guinea of over five million barrels per day and also additional discoveries from other member state.
‚ÄúI am delighted to witness this memorable occasion for the collaborative engagement mechanism in our drive to effectively secure the Gulf of Guinea maritime domain in order to harness the vast economic resources.
‚ÄúI wish to emphasis that collective action from member states is very crucial in confronting maritime threats such as, attacks on shipping and resource theft,‚Äù Gusau said.
The defence minister commended ECOWAS for the active participation and signing of memorandum of understanding, adoption of ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy and Multilateral Agreement on the establishment of Zone E.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Usman Jibrin, said the Multilateral Agreement on the establishment of Maritime Zone E in 2013 aims at eradicating illegal maritime activities in West Africa.
Jibrin said the meeting was organised to finalise important processes towards activation of Zone E Maritime Multinational Coordination Centre (MMCC).
‚ÄúToday, we are expected to formally agree on the final operational plan and resource commitment as fine-tuned by our team of operational experts,‚Äù he said.