The Niger Delta which juts into the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) is Nigeria’s treasure base. Over 70 per cent of the nation’s wealth comes from there. Oil exploration and exploitation activities take place here. Excise the littoral states of this region from the Nigerian federation and the economy will crash irredeemably. Thus, the Niger Delta is to Nigeria what the Nile River is to Egypt.
Strategic as the GoG is to Nigeria and other countries in the West and Central Africa sub-regions, the area has a porous security network. This has paved way for criminal activities to the detriment of the economy of member-states. From Nigeria to Senegal and states in the Central Africa Sub-region, the seabed is blessed with black gold.
Because of the lax security, oil theft is common, smuggling rampant, piracy frequent, illegal refineries abundant, gun running a means of livelihood and crime generally a way of life. It has remained a hideout for militants who have refused to embrace the Federal Government’s amnesty. Such militants are now into gun running and oil theft. Just last week, one of them, Anietie Etim was arrested by the police while negotiating to sell arms to four buyers from Taraba State to be resold apparently to Boko Haram insurgents and warriors of inter-tribal wars in the north.
The non-observance of the maritime boundary among states in the zone has further made it a fertile ground for illegal international trade including the lifting of crude oil by barges from Europe, America and Asia. Arms, banned second-hand clothes and other contraband are smuggled into the country through this axis.
Last year, Cross River State governor, Mr. Liyel Imoke on two occasions led security operatives to Bakassi Local Government Area (near the GoG) to destroy illegal refineries, barges, jerry cans and drums used in siphoning petroleum products. In one of those operations, over 100 trucks that had parked to lift fuel were impounded. Over 500 drums were seized and the refineries set ablaze.
In Calabar, capital of Cross River State, there is this allegation that crime thrives in the GoG because both Nigerian and foreign security personnel do connive with criminals to steal crude oil and engage in other unwholesome economic activities. Poverty, according to Chiefs of Naval Staff of member-states of the region who gathered in Calabar early this week for a three-day conference, was at the core of the security challenges.
Others are lack of military capacity by some member-states to effectively police their territorial waters; poor intelligence gathering and lack of information sharing among states; poor technological knowhow to monitor sea pirates and other criminals; inadequate budget for defence, a development that has made some countries not to be able to acquire latest war ships and other weapons of maritime warfare.
And with jobs hard to come by in the respective countries, able-bodied men are resorting to piracy to survive. More factors for the security lapses listed by the naval chiefs include inability of governments of member-states to enforce their maritime laws, environmental degradation resulting as a result of polluted creeks and farm lands, illiteracy, lack of political will to be firm and decisive.
Occasional gun duel between government forces and pirates/smugglers has over the years led to loss of lives on both sides. Oil platforms are often the target of sea criminals just as pipelines vandalism is an intermittent occurrence. All these untoward activities became disturbing to international maritime observers, investors and governments of GoG states.
Thus, they envisioned a common security network to police the region. This gave birth to the just concluded Regional Maritime Awareness Capability Conference (RMACC) in Calabar.
In his speech on the occasion, Ezeoba said the GoG of late has become a source of concern to the region and the international community given its myriad security challenges. He listed the threats impinging on regional security to include piracy, sea robbery, drug and human trafficking, pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft, illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, proliferation of small arms and light weapons and environmental degradation.
“Regrettably, these threats constitute serious challenges and adversely impact on the collective maritime governance imperatives and economic wellbeing of nation states in the GoG. It is therefore imperative to emphasize that no meaningful development can take place in an atmosphere of insecurity within the global commons.
“As discomforting as these threats would appear, they are not insurmountable hence the clarion call for the enthronement of constructive, proactive, sustainable and holistic maritime security architecture.
“Such structure would ensure a secure and safe maritime environment for optimal exploration and exploitation of the abundant maritime resources that is germane for socio-economic growth and national development of the sub-Saharan Africa while providing economic opportunities for the rest of the world”, he said.
And for the GoG security to succeed, the Nigerian Naval Chief suggested that it be anchored on the Yaounde declaration “within the context of extant code of conduct, protocols and memoranda of understanding of the GoG commission, Ecowas and ECCAS”.
Ezeoba added that if states in the region desire development, “it is only logical that we also place maritime security on the top rungs of our national security priorities. An effective maritime security regime in the GoG must be pitched on core attributes such as the elimination of sea blindness within the African continent, sincerity of purpose, strength of character and above all, the political will of all member-states and stakeholders”.
But for the envisaged security to succeed, member-states must put in place “the requisite synergy for optimal utilization of the RMACC in information and intelligence sharing, situational awareness and collaborative planning remains a challenge and must therefore be addressed at this conference”.
Minister of State Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada in her speech said it has become necessary for GoG states to come together to effectively ” patrol their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), territorial waters, and ports. The losses translate into huge opportunity cost in terms of both unrealized national revenue and untapped human potentials”.
According to her, “RMACC has become the sure way for Nigerians to enforce maritime governance and prevent illegal activities from occurring in her maritime domain” and implored the conference to come out with workable resolutions for the common good.
She listed the security lapses in the GoG to include lack of basic maritime awareness which create ungoverned maritime environments where terrorist and criminals freely move and operate; inadequate national and regional capabilities to monitor maritime surface traffic in a timely manner and lack of policies, tactics, techniques and procedures and training on the security of the region.
The Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Joseph Aikhomu, in his remarks said the introduction of the RMACC project with the assistance of the US and UK “has presented opportunities which if carefully managed will facilitate tremendous improvement in the security of the GoG”.
In his speech to close the conference, Governor Imoke represented by his deputy, Mr. Efiok Cobham said “piracy in the GoG cost the world economy between $740million and $950million last year and that figure is expected to grow in 2013. The estimated total insurance cost for the GoG last year was between $423million to $437million.The economic implication of this insecurity presents a stark realization of the gravity of the situation”. – – Jude Okwe in Calabar
BlackSpot Watch ADAMAWA STATE – Savannah Sugar Plantation in Numan LGA (notorious for incessant robbery attacks) – Shopping Complex in Jimeta-Yola (assassins’ enclave) – Jambutu Motor Park areas (house-to-house armed attacks) – Abattoir along Yola town (drug addicts’ enclave ) – Mubi North, Mubi South, Mahia LGAs ( Safe haven for terrorists) – Gombi/Hong Road (armed robbery cases). – Madagali LGA – Ganye LGA – Luggerre in Jimeta-Yola (Armed robbery) – Yola-Numan Road (Armed robbery cases at 5am especially at ‘The Welcome to Yola Gate’ Source: Security agencies
EDO STATE Car-jacking spots… Benin City: – Wire Road – Okhoro/Medical Store Road – Upper Sokponba Road – Ekehuan Road by College Road Junction/
Upper Ekehuan/Gelegele Road – Ugbor Road, GRA – Abudu – Okada
Ekpoma – Uhunmudumu Road – Uwujale Road
Irrua – Uromi/Irrua Road
Uromi – Opoji Road – Igueben Road
Auchi – Angle 90 – Jattu Road – Polytechnic Road – South-Ibie/Ekperi Road Source: Security agencies
FCT – Gwarimpa Estate, Kubwa, Maraba-Nyanya: Hot for armed robbery (especially in areas close to exit routes to Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue and Kaduna States)
Car-jacking, etc… – Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent, – Wuse 2, – Value Gate Park-Gardens, opposite Orji Uzo-Kalu/Abia House, Wuse 2 Area 3, Garki (cluster of banks – notorious for car thefts, mainly from those who went to the banks to make withdrawals). – Numerous Gardens, ICC: Cars are burgled, with wind shields broken mostly at nights – Gwarimpa is a hot zone – Maraba: Notorious for phone snatching Source: Security agencies
KOGI STATE – Okene town (violent crimes) – Ayangba town (armed robbery) – Okene-Aajoakuta-kotonkarfe-Abuja (armed robbery)
Vehicles Reg . No Location Nissan Primera KRD 966 Area ‘N’ Honda Accord AL 490 DBU Ikeja Div M/Benz ‘C’ EE 26 EKY Area ‘N’ Mazda E200 Bus XW 343 JJJ Denton Div Nissan Murano CY 81 APP Maroko Div V/Wagen Faragon XA 378 NSA Owode Onirin Toyota Corolla BC 413 KSF Maroko Div Ford Car KRD 523 AN L/Building Peugeot 407 S/Car 566 APZ 85 Alakara Div Honda Accord ZA 819 E Onipanu Div Toyota Camry BDG 663 BD Area ‘A’ Hq Mit. Lancer CF 760 LSD Ladigbo P/P Chevrolet CF 578 AH Shogunle Div