BY PAUL OHIA
British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr. Andrew Pocock, has promised that his country will support Africa’s capacity in maritime security through advising, training and equipping of local security forces on the continent.
The envoy spoke at a conference on West African Maritime Security and Development held by the Royal Institute of International Affairs of London (Chatham House) and the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Lagos Saturday.
He described maritime as an important element in regional and national development for both littoral and landlocked states.
According to Pocock, there are no need for new institutions in this sector but the strengthening of existing national and regional institutions to work together effectively.
To achieve result, the High Commissioner was of the opinion that the prerequisite for now is to work at the strategic level with harmonized planning, training, political, legal and judicial cooperation.
At the tertiary level, he suggested joint exercises, coordinated patrolling, mutual assistance wherever possible and action on land as well as at sea.
“Fighting of armed robbery at sea begins on the land” he noted stressing that issues of governance, security and economic opportunity matter in the sphere.
He urged national government in West Africa to support ECOWAS, ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Joint Commission.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral D.J. Ezeoba in his keynote admitted maritime crimes are complex, fluid and dynamic in nature and must be accorded serious consideration.
He said to tackle this crime, consideration must be given to the emplacement of robust response capability as well as an effective legal regime and enforcement mechanism.
The Director General of the NIIA, Professor Bola Akinterinwa in his welcome address said Nigeria is more interested in oil theft, piracy, terrorism and maritime insurance, According to him, many Western countries and Asia are interested in Africa. He asked rhetorically what the role of Africa should be and whether a country needs to be a sea power before seeking maritime security.
A research fellow, Centre for Strategic Research and Studies, Nigeria Defence College, Abuja, Freedom Onuoha said West Africa is a highly complex region full of affluence and afflictions.
Onuoha said despite the region’s heterogeneity in terms of size and endowments, it shares a common feature of multiple layers of insecurity, associated with conflicts and crimes at community and national levels and often across border.
He said West African states need to evolve sound resource management practices, review update and harmonization of their domestic legislation, adapt greater international collaboration and evolve common maritime patrol and interdiction mechanism amongst others.