The ECOWAS Commission will on Thursday 4th May 2017 in Cotonou, receive technical equipment donated by the German Government for the effective functioning of the Headquarters of the ECOWAS Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre (MMCC) Zone E, towards the strengthening of the regional Maritime Security architecture.
The Zone E, hosted by Benin Republic and which also groups Togo and Nigeria is one of the three ECOWAS MMCCs. MMCC Zone F, hosted by Ghana has Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as other Member States, while Zone G, made up of Capo Verde, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Senegal and Mali is hosted by Capo Verde.
The West African Maritime domain, which accounts for the region’s significant economic resources is threatened by myriad of illicit activities such as oil bunkering, hostage taking, smuggling, drug and human trafficking, Illicit Unreported Unregulated Fishing (IUU), illegal migration, piracy, armed robbery at sea and illicit toxic dumping, among others.
To address these challenges, the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government during their 40th Ordinary Session held in Abuja in February 2012 mandated the ECOWAS Commission to develop a holistic maritime policy framework to guide actions and cooperation within the West African region and to also strengthen collaboration with the Economic Community of Central African States, (ECCAS), the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), and other relevant stakeholders.
In line with this mandate, the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy (EIMS) was adopted by the regional leaders at their meeting in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire on 26th March, 2014.
Each Maritime Zone is to be equipped with monitoring and enforcement mechanism, and staffed with representatives from countries of that zone.
An ECOWAS Regional Maritime Coordinating Centre, with the French acronym, CRESMAO hosted by Cote d’Ivoire in Abidjan is to be responsible for the strategic coordination of the three zones. It is also expected to serve as an information collection, collation and dissemination point and liaise with the Maritime Inter-regional Coordination Centre (ICC) in Yaoundé, Cameroun.
ECOWAS is working closely with ECCAS for the effective functioning of the ICC, which was inaugurated in September, 2014.
The German Government provided the equipment and a mini-bus for the Headquarters of ECOWAS MMCC Zone E through its technical support agency GIZ. It is also providing similar equipment for Zones F and G, and CRESMAO.
The Governmental Experts meeting for the review of key documents of Zone F, organized in Accra, Ghana last year, was also sponsored by GIZ.
The operationalization of the ECOWAS Maritime Zones is part of the implementation of the broader Gulf of Guinea maritime initiatives. It is also part of the broader scope of the ECOWAS Maritime Security Management mechanism, which seeks to achieve among others, enhanced information/intelligence exchange, training and capacity building, including basic and improved specialized training for staff dealing with maritime security and establishment and expansion of operational networks among law enforcement entities operating at all seaports and major river border posts in Member States.
The other objectives include to, encourage the ECOWAS Member States to establish specialized units for port control or mobile border operations in key areas; develop and strengthen cooperation on the patrol, surveillance and information-gathering systems; to promote co-operation among navies, and maritime law enforcement entities and augment marine capabilities among naval forces of Member States.
This is to enable each Member State to protect its Exclusive Economic Zone and contribute to the collective maritime security in the region through joint patrols among others.
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