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Buhari Demands  Improved Efforts Against Piracy, Human Trafficking

…Emerges Chairman of Gulf of Guinea Commission

President Muhammadu Buhari has called for improved against piracy, human trafficking and other criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea.

Buhari who was represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, made this call in Abuja on Thursday at the 4th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC).

Sepakinv shortly after the confirmation of his appointment as the new chairman of GGC, the President stressed on renewed commitment to deal with  emerging  socio-economic and security challenges facing the commission.

He noted that the members could achieve this by collectively taking measures to check violations of domestic and international treaties in the Gulf of Guinea.  

He said:  “In conformity with the theme of the 4th Ordinary Session which is: ‘A Vibrant Gulf of Guinea Region for sustainable Development’, let us renew our commitment to making the Gulf of Guinea more effective and a truly vibrant partner in all our efforts, be the regional, national or international, to ensure a zone of peace, security and sustainable development for our countries, our peoples and other stakeholders in the region.”

Buhari listed the challenges facing the commission to include a rise in maritime insurance premiums for vessels coming into the Gulf of Guinea, increased threats and reduced commercial traffic to the region as well as unregulated and unreported fishing along the Gulf of Guinea.

He also charged the member states to take measures to reduce pollution and environmental degradation in the Gulf of Guinea.

Buhari  however, commended individual efforts of some of the member states who improved the capacities and capability of their Navy and other relevant organisations to enable them perform their duties more effectively.

He also commended ECOWAS and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS/CEEAC) for establishing maritime regional centres for maritime security.

“This effort is capped by the establishment of the inter-regional coordination centre based in Yaoundé, Cameroun, as the collaborative link between the two maritime regional centres led by ECOWAS and ECCAS,” he said.

Speaking further, the President called on the member states to always fulfill their financial dues and obligations to the commission to ensure effective operation and performance of the CGC.

He also congratulated Ghana for being a new member Commission, while commending the staff of the GGC secretariat for their untiring efforts in sustaining the commission

Earlier, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen. Babagana Mungonu (rtd), stressed that the current situation in the Gulf of Guinea region especially “the surge in illegal activities of piracy, illicit drugs, arms and human trafficking, illegal immigration, environmental pollution and degradation calls for greater attention to be paid by members countries to curbing these activities”.

Monguno noted that maritime security and economic prosperity are interdependent and mutually re-enforcing.

According to him,  improvement of maritime security can positively contribute to increased national, regional and continental stability and by the same token make a sustainable contribution to global security.

He said Nigeria has continued to develop the capacity of its armed forces particularly the Navy and other  Maritime agencies to effectively tackle these challenges.

He said: “Indeed, the surveillance capabilities of the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency are being  developed to ensure a secure environment within the domain as well as in the Gulf of Guinea.

“Similarly, the Nigerian Navy has been maintaining a strong presence in Maritime area with a band configuration and operations capabilities to deal with surface, air and underwater threats. In addition, the Nigerian Navy has been cooperating with neigbouring countries and allies in Nigeria’s Maritime area of interest with a view to pursue security and safety.”

“Other measures being implemented include: employment of the robust maritime domain awareness capability through the employment of the original maritime awareness capability and the Falcon Eye Project; Activation of a Naval Taskforce to combat piracy and related attacks on shipping and oil and gas infrastructure; the establishment of 37 check points by the Nigerian Navy to ensure continuous presence and monitoring of crude oil thefts in the Niger Delta area; the conduct of regular sea exercises by the Nigerian Navy such as exercise Eagle Eye, to improve the state of readiness and proficiency; Finalization of National Integrated Maritime Security Strategy which has also necessitated the development of national maritime policy by the Ministry of Defence.

“The signing of agreement in 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari with the government of Equatorial Guinea on the establishment of the combined maritime policing and security parole community to help in curbing maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.

“Nigeria has also prepared the draft anti-piracy bill to give effect to the relevant provisions of the United Nations Conventions of the  Law of the Sea of 1982 and the Convention for the Suppression of  Illegal  Acts at Sea 1982 and its protocol of 2005 to punish and deter piracy and other maritime crimes.

“Nigeria has ascribed to the continent’s maritime charter on maritime security safety and development in Africa, this was done on 15th of October,2016 with the Aimee of strengthening the inter-agency for national coordination and cooperation to tackle maritime issues for the region.

“Nigeria has also ratified  The United Nations Organised Crime Convention which enjoins parties to criminalize practices and combat that subject human beings to all forms of exploitation. 

“And further more, Nigeria has adopted a strategic framework such as the 2015 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy and the Yaoundé Code of Conduct for the repression of piracy and other illicit maritime activities within the Gulf of Guinea.

“It is important to note that the security challenges confronting the member states of the Gulf of Guinea Commission which have continued to impact negativity on the development of the region, calls for concerted and unrelenting efforts by all stakeholders.

“It should be noted that the Gulf of Guinea provides a verifiable platform to tackling these numerous security challenges.

“I therefore urged increased cooperation and collaboration among member states as well as support for the Gulf of Guinea Commission to enhance its capacity to deliver on its mandate.”

Also speaking, the Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Florence Adenike Ukong,  said  the secretariat has proposed a plan of revitalization of the commission which among other structural and cultural  measures has set up five specialized committees.

Ukong said the first, is the Peace and security committee which is expected to address issues of related to drug trafficking, arms trafficking, maritime piracy, human trafficking, development of security architecture for the maritime space, illegal bunkering, money laundry and other financial crimes.

She said: “Immigration specialized committee: This is expected to deal with situations leading to illegal and irregular immigration, irregular requests for political asylum and issues related to the demarcation of borders among the states of the region.

“Oil and environment specialized committee: to address issues related to oil exploitation so that best practices can be applied in region as well as the issues of environmental pollution.”

“Fishing: To address issues related illegal, irregular and unreported fishing, the conservation of fishing resources and joint management of common water resources. 

“Funding committee: today, the financing of projects and programmes as well as funding of the Commission.”

She said the idea to establishe the committees is to involve relevant agencies of member states to deliberate more freely and exchange views on best practices adopted in each state to tackle identified problems and recommend such for region-wide adoption, adaptation and implementation.

Ukong said the adoption of the revitalization plan of the commission will enable it redouble its efforts to implement the objectives for which it was established.

“Without your support for these projects we cannot make headway.

“Any organization needs financial support to survive and meet its needs without which we shall always scratch the surface.

“Without the support for fulfilling its programmes, the organization may indirectly be overtaken by other stakeholders and may live unwilling to address the current challenges, this may not be in the interest of region.

“We need political and financial support to give the commission a chance, a life line to proof itself as a veritable vehicle of development of the social and economic well being of the region in other to make the region economic palace a reality and a region of peace and security for development.”

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