By Victoria Ojeme
The Federal Government and other member-countries of the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) have renewed their efforts to tackle the enormous challenges facing the Gulf of Guinea such as oil theft, sea piracy, human trafficking, drug trafficking, armed robbery and other illicit activities in the Gulf of Guinea.
Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was elected the new chairman of the GGC, gave this indication while making his remarks during the 4th Assembly of the Heads of States and Government of the member countries of the GGC in Abuja on Thursday with the theme “A vibrant Gulf of Guinea Region for Sustainable Development”
Osinbajo, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari in the meeting said the GGC is at a critical moment following the escalation crisis in the Gulf of Guinea since the commission was established by the Treaty signed in Libreville, Gabon, on 3 July 2001 by Angola, Congo, Gabon, Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe. Cameroun later joined in 2008.
The GGC aim is to institutionalize cooperation amongst the countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea so as to “defend their common interest and promote peace and socio-economic development on the bases of dialogue, consensus, ties of friendship, solidarity and fraternity.”
The aim also include promoting close consultation in the exploitation of natural resources of the Gulf with a view to ensuring economic development of member states and protecting and improving the natural environment.
The Vice President lamented that since Libreviile, there has been an escalation in threats to security in the Gulf of Guinea especially the wave of sea piracy, armed banditry, trafficking of arms, drugs and persons. He said that some of the economic consequences of the security challenges that the commission faces include a rise in maritime insurance premiums of vessels coming to the Gulf of Guinea, increased freight and reduced commercial traffic to the region.
“These challenges are grave indeed; they compromise our economies and the smooth execution of international trade. Our objectives as a group have never been as crucial as they .are today. Security in the Gulf of Guinea is both a challenge to maritime safety and it a significant threat to the economic prosperity of our states.
“Its therefore in our national and regional interests to collaborate on this and other regional initiatives to tackle the problems that we confront in the maritime domain in the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.
He called on member states to make more efforts on the issue of payment of financial dues stressing that it is crucial to the operation and performance of the GGC.
“Let us renew our commitment in making the Gulf of Guinea commission more effective and truly vibrant in all our efforts to ensure that peace, security and sustainable development for our countries, our peoples and other stakeholders,” he said.
He said however that despite the challenges the situation has evolved positively in some areas due largely to the member countries individual efforts to improve the capacity and capability of their navies and other relevant agencies to enable them perform their duties more effectively.
He commended the effort of each regional economic community such as ECOWAS, ECAS, in establishing their maritime regional centres, which is capped by the establishment of interregional coordination centre in Younde, Cameroun as the collaborating link between the two regional maritime centers led by ECOWAS and ECAS.
Outgoing chairman of the GGC, Baltasar Engoganga Edjo’o, of Equatorial Guinea noted that it has become imperative to harness the resources of the member countries to increase the funding of the commission, which is a major handicap to the operations of the commission.
Others who graced the events include; Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geofrey Onyeama, Cameroun’s Minister of External affairs, Mbela Mbela, Ambassador of Angola to Nigeria Eustaquio Januario, the Executive Secretary of the GGC, Florentina Adenike Nkonga among others.