Sunday, 10th December 2023

Piracy attacks in GoG sponsored by high-profile personalities, experts reveal

By Adaku Onyenucheya
05 April 2023   |   4:03 am
Anti-piracy security experts have said the unending attacks in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) are a political business sponsored by high network personalities, leveraging on the unemployment rate of trained youths.

Anti-piracy security experts have said the unending attacks in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) are a political business sponsored by high network personalities, leveraging on the unemployment rate of trained youths.

According to them, governments in the region are frustrating efforts at combatting and eliminating piracy to the nearest minimum, as they have refused to deploy technologies such as, a central control room and the coastguard to complete the efforts of naval presence on waters.

This was made known during an interview programme on News Central, tagged: “Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea,” following the recent attack on a Danish-owned Liberian-flagged oil and chemical tanker ship about 140 miles west of Congo’s Port Pointe-Noire late last month.

Recall that the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC) had warned that the Gulf of Guinea is still dangerous despite the recent positive piracy reduction trend achieved by both local and foreign naval operations.

The Secretary-General of the Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria, Captain Alfred Oniye, said piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is an organised crime and a political business perpetrated by high-profile personalities using unemployed professionals.

The United States certified anti-piracy security expert, while recounting his experience in combating the menace in the region, alleged that 90 per cent of pirates are trained professionals without jobs, who are hired and equipped by high-profile personalities to carry out the crime on ships in the region.

He said it is unfortunate that after arresting the pirates, there are no investigations to find out their sponsors, the means of supply of the sophisticated weapons they use and the market they take the stolen goods to.

“They can’t operate in the Gulf of Guinea without some security agencies being involved, because they must create demand for their supply.

“Nobody ever bother to find out where the pirates get those sophisticated weapons they use in the attacks, the dealers, the country of supply etc? These are questions to ask. To solve a problem, you need to get to the root cause,” he said.

Oniye, who is also the Head of the Trident Group America, further accused governments in the Gulf of Guinea of frustrating the deployment of a coastguard and central control room, which the US and other countries have deployed to tackle the menace on their waters and regions.

He said African countries find it difficult to have a coastguard that will take care of their entire backwater and complement the effort of the defence Navy in the Gulf of Guinea.

He said maritime security has advanced with the use of a central control room in which the radar is used to see everything that is happening within the Gulf of

Oniye also said maritime security has gone beyond putting gunboats on the sea and patrolling, adding that with the advanced modern technology, surveillance and monitoring can be done in the comfort of one’s home.

Oniye commended the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral, Awwal Zubairu Gambo, for the Nigerian Navy operations in the region, which has led to the delisting of Nigeria from the piracy red list of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

He said the CNS’s approach in tackling the issue has yielded positive results on Nigeria waters, as seen in the recent data by the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre (IMB PRC), which showed zero piracy incident recorded in Nigeria in 2022.

Oniye also said the role of Nigerian Navy in securing the nation’s maritime domain has also led to the removal of war insurance premium paid by ships arriving the country to foster maritime commerce and trade.

The Chief Executive Officer, Regitt Consulting Services Limited, United States of America (USA), Dr. Ignatius Uche, emphasised the use of technology in policing GoG.

He called for the integration of the existing technologies deployed by the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as Command, Control to mitigate the menace in the region.

The security expert also called for holistic collaboration of the agencies, saying some will not allow the solutions deployed to be effective, as they feel it is their inalienable constitutional right to protect the waters alone.

“There should be the establishment of an effective and functional joint task force that will show their presence at sea 24/7 to be able to deal with all these teething challenges within the Gulf of Guinea.

“If we can integrate and harmonise all the security forces under one umbrella to work towards the security of this nation’s territorial waters, that will go a long way in addressing this problem,” he said.

Uche commended the various operations ongoing in the region, noting that it has helped in reducing this threat as seen in the international data.

He said to sustain the achievement, countries in GoG need to sustain these operations, build capacity, train and retrain personnel as well as increase their allowances because this is a risky business.

“No amount of money will be too much to encourage and empower this personnel that put their lives at risk daily in securing these waters.

Uche also called on shipping companies and operators to look inwards and do thorough background checks on all their seafarers, as an investigation revealed that seafarers stage their kidnap to make money.

The security expert further stressed the need to address weak governance and legislation as well as punishment when the pirates are caught.

“To what extent are we implementing the legal system and framework? We need to strengthen our judicial institutions to ensure that whoever is caught should be dealt with following the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). When we keep doing that, you will notice a decline in the pirate trend,” he said.

He added if the issue is not addressed, the country’s compliance status will be questioned by the international community while shipping companies will increase insurance.

According to him, the multiplier effect is the rise in the cost of living, people being impoverished, low standard of living and decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).