Lagos –FOLLOWING rising concern over the increased cases of pirate attack and oil theft within the West African coastal waters, Heads of States and security experts from nine nations which makes up the Gulf of Guinea are expected in Yaounde in Cameroun to try and proffer solutions to this menace.
The conference tagged the ‚ÄòGulf Of Guinea Maritime Safety Summit‚Äô, it is expected to lead to the adoption of documents which will culminate in the establishment of joint interventionist force to save the sub-region from the rising spike of oil theft piracy and robbery.
It was gathered last week that, apart from the Gulf of Guinea meeting, a similar meeting was held under the auspices of the ECOWAS and the Economic Commission of East and Central Africa State (ECCAS).
The Gulf of Guinea Commission comprises- Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Sao Tom√© and Principe, while the ECCAS is made up of Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tom√© and Principe and Chad.
It was also confirmed that this week‚Äôs meeting will look at previous instruments, adopt them and move towards creating a multi-nation body to conduct joint anti-piracy operations to curb illegal activities at sea from the Senegal to Angola.
According to a top security source, if the documents are adopted, it will establish a concrete basis for policy interactions, both strategically and operationally, in order to allow the two regional economic groups to further tackle the menace of piracy, oil theft and all illegal activities at sea.
The source further disclosed that the all-important documents that will engage attendees at the meeting are: the Memorandum of Agreement among ECOWAS, ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission, GGC, on the maritime safety and security in West and Central Africa, the policy statement of the Heads of State and Government on the maritime safety and security in the West and Central Africa, as well as the Code of Conduct concerning the fight against piracy, armed robbery and illegal maritime activities in West and Central Africa.
The three documents had been validated by the inter-ministerial meeting which held in Cotonou, Benin Republic earlier.
The Gulf of Guinea, which follows the continent‚Äôs southward curve from Liberia to Gabon, has seen an escalation in violent pirate attacks from low-level armed robberies to hijackings and cargo thefts.
Last year, London-based Lloyd‚Äôs Market Association ‚Äî an umbrella group of insurers ‚Äî listed Nigeria, neighboring Benin and nearby waters in the same risk category as Somalia, where two decades of war and anarchy have allowed piracy to flourish.
Experts say, piracy targeting the coast of West Africa takes root in the oil-water creeks of Nigeria‚Äôs Delta region, where militants steal millions of dollars of crude with the alleged help of security agencies.
While the attacks target ships throughout the Gulf of Guinea, the majority happens within Nigeria‚Äôs coastal waters.
Threats of piracy have also seen needed cargo shipments drop in the region and led to calls for potentially arming private security contractors to protect vessels, experts say.
The experts also noted that, shipping into neighbouring Benin Republic has dropped by as much as 70 per cent after insurance rates skyrocketed for the region, as other shippers have stopped reporting incidents for fear of seeing their own premiums rise, he said.
*Godwin Oritse, Vanguard.