By Victoria Ojeme and Ezra Ukanwa

THE United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, on Tuesday, charged the Nigerian Navy on tackling maritime threats such as armed robbery at sea; kidnapping of seafarers, among others, in the Gulf of Guinea, GoG.

The UNDP, while describing the Gulf of Guinea as a ‘dangerous hotspot area for seafarers’, stated that despite past actions by the Nigerian Navy, the piracy and maritime crimes has continued to pose serious threats to international trades, the safety of seafarers, and regional and global development.

Speaking at the launch of the ‘Regional and national capacities for counter-piracy and response in the Gulf of Guinea Project’ in Abuja, the Deputy Resident Representative, Mr. Lealem Berhanu Dinku, called for a concerted effort from the Nigerian Navy to advance moves in countering maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea.

Dinku, who was represented by Mr. Matthew Alao, however, expressed optimism that with the Nigerian Navy making frontline moves against all sorts criminalities in GoG, there would be significant progress in the fight against Piracy.

He said: “The Gulf of Guinea continues to be a dangerous hotspot area for seafarers with 43% of global reported piracy incidents and all 40 kidnapped crew incidents occurring in this region in the first quarter of 2021.

“With the concerted efforts of regional and international navies, especially the Nigerian Navy, the reported piracy incidents from the region reduced from 16 in the first quarter of 2021 to 7 over the same period in 2022.

“Despite this, piracy and maritime crimes continue to pose serious threats to international trades, the safety of seafarers, and regional and global development.

“With the assured partnership of the Nigerian Navy to be the engine room for the current phase of the project, it should be expected that the results that will be attained will, no doubt, be exemplary and help to significantly address the core issues of piracy in GOG.

“The partnership with the Nigerian Navy equally implies that subsequent phases of the project will be more robust in design, in implementation and be of fabulous benefits to all stakeholders in the GoG region.”

On his part, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, who was represented by the Director, Peacekeeping Operations, Naval Headquarters, Rear Admiral Abdulmajid Ibrahim, said the Nigerian Navy is not relenting on its effort to combat crimes in the GoG which has led the removal of Nigeria from the International Maritime Bureau, IMB, list of piracy piracy prone countries.

“The Nigerian Navy is not relenting in the effort that the menace of piracy is stemmed out in the Gulf of Guinea region. Some of the laudable effort made by the Navy is to build capacity, and this includes: fleet renewal recapitalization through the induction of capital ships; In shore patrol aircraft and boats and helicopters in the service.

“The second effort is maritime domain awareness. The Nigerian Navy also leveraged on technology to enhance its surveillance capability to the employment of maritime domain awareness infrastructures, which are domiciled in the headquarters and office of the National Security Adviser. This entails cameras using the satellite, the monitor the ship traffic at the Gulf of Guinea.

“Due to the aforementioned effort of the Navy, and other stakeholders, the International Maritime Bureau has removed Nigeria from the list of piracy prone countries”, he said.

Earlier, the Ambassador of Japan to Nigeria, Matsunaga Kazuyoshi, bemoaned the GoG situation, while explaining that the idea of strengthening cooperation with Nigeria became necessary, in order to ensure coordinated monitoring of the area.

Kazuyoshi, who was represented by Maehira Tomoyoshi, while commending the Nigerian Navy for their efforts, said that: “According to the statistics released by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), piracy incidents in the Gulf of Guinea dropped from 81 in year 2020 to 34 in 2021 representing a 58.02% decrease.

“This is not an accident or a coincidence, but a product of conscious collaborative efforts by the Nigerian Navy and other stakeholders in the region”, he added.

During his remark, the Commandant, Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre, Maj. Gen. AJ Fagge noted that: the centre would continue to consolidate her mandate to training and providing quality peacekeepers and leaders in all facets of national and international endeavours.”

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