The 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is seeking to launch a pilot project aimed at monitoring and tackling piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
“Over the past years, the ECOWAS region, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea, has seen piracy and various other criminal acts,” Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, told Anadolu Agency.
“The heads of states and governments approved a strategy for combatting that menace [i.e., maritime crime] and part of that strategy includes setting up maritime zones,” she said.
The countries of the sub-region have been grouped into zones for information coordination and action, Suleiman explained.
“The first one we are piloting in West Africa is the Zone E. This comprises Nigeria, Niger, Benin and Togo,” added Suleiman, who is currently attending a three-day meeting of ECOWAS defense chiefs in Ghana.
The meeting, which kicked off Tuesday, is meant to address a host of issues, including anti-piracy efforts and the Ebola outbreak.
“This meeting will discuss the operationalization of this zone and will pave the way for others to come,” Suleiman told AA. “We are collaborating efforts to deal with this issue.”
She said Benin had offered to host the zone’s coordinating center.
“This is part of what the meeting will discuss to see whether the venue provided is adequate,” noted Suleiman.
She said the meeting would also discuss coordinating efforts for a maritime zone established by states of the ten-member Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) with a view to combating piracy.
“There will be a regional coordinating center and an inter-regional coordinating center,” added the ECOWAS official.
She said the inter-regional coordinating center, based in Cameroonian capital Yaounde, would be launched on September 11 in line with decisions taken by ECOWAS and ECCAS heads of state at a joint summit in June of last year.
Piracy has become a growing concern in West Africa.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) recently warned of the dangers to ships transiting West African waters, particularly around Nigeria, Benin and Togo.
ECOWAS, a regional bloc founded in 1975, seeks to promote economic, social and cultural integration among its 15 member states.
Ghana currently holds the rotating chair of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government.