A two-day consultative dialogue on combating maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea: challenges and prospects, took place in Monrovia, calling for stronger international action plans to halt the increasing maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea (GOG).
The Gulf of Guinea, which serves as a strategic route for regional and international commerce, has contributed to facilitating the growth of the blue economies globally. However, in recent times, the area has garnered ill-repute as a focal point for maritime crimes.
The two-day consultative Dialogue Meeting, which began on Monday, March 1, 2021, is primarily aimed at finding a lasting solution to the growing menace.
The Dialogue, which brought together several participants and key stakeholders from Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo and Nigeria, is organized by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center (KAIPTC), with support from the Government of Japan, through the UNDP.
In his welcome remarks, Major/General Francis Ofori, Commandant, Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center (KAIPTC), said this event is occurring in the framework of the long-standing relationship among the KAIPTC, the UNDP and the Government of Japan.
“These three allies have worked together since 2008 to address security sector capacity gaps in the West Africa sub-region. However, the focus of these collaborative efforts have always been tailored to reflect the changing security threats in West Africa. For example, as some of you will remember, in 2016/2017, this collaboration contributed to strengthening capacity gaps in policing, county security and small arms control in Liberia.
“Under the leadership of the late Professor Jaye, and together with the UNDP and Japan, we located a $700,000.00 project solely in Liberia and through that process developed a senior command course for the Liberia National Police, conducted a baseline study for the Small Arms Commission in Liberia and trained 250 county security council members in Zwedru, Kakata, Buchanan and here in Monrovia,” Major/General Ofori recalled.
This time around, he indicated, they are focusing on strengthening maritime crime arrests and prosecution efforts of member states of the ECOWAS maritime zones E and F under yet another project on “Maritime Security Capacity Development for Safety and Security in The Gulf of Guinea”.
“Participating countries include: Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire, which are the top destination countries for sea-based transportation in the two maritime zones.
At the same time, these countries constitute the hardest hit countries when it comes to piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. Normally, the KAIPTC would send the project staff to the participating countries to consult and share the project concept and in the process learn the perspectives of these countries that would inform the implementation of the project.
However, the Centre decided to rather assemble representatives from key member states to gather in one of the participating countries to brainstorm on the way forward.
“Liberia was selected to host this meeting not just because the KAIPTC enjoys cordial relations with the Government of Liberia, but it is also an opportunity to showcase the maritime threat response initiatives that Liberia is pursuing, and we hope to learn from all the experts and country representatives gathered here over the next two days,” Maj. Gen. Ofori said.
“The Gulf of Guinea has over the decades been a breeding ground for a series of security threats, including armed robbery, piracy and kidnappings at sea which have escalated in recent years.”
In 2019, the International Maritime Bureau sounded an alarm and called for international cooperation after an “unprecedented rise” in kidnappings in the region. This was an increase of fifty percent from the previous year. The year 2020 came with different uncertainties, which did not spare the maritime domain and particularly, the Gulf of Guinea.
According to a Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa Maritime brief published in August, 2020, piracy attacks occurred in 9 countries outside the Nigerian hub from January to August 2020. These include: Benin, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Sao Tomé and Principe and Togo.
“The geographical spread of incidents in 2020 is equally unique in the sense that the extension unfolded simultaneously in both westwards and south-eastwards directions from Nigeria. In the past, the spread was mostly random and limited to Nigeria’s immediate neighbouring states.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is important to note that though the root causes or drivers of piracy and related maritime crimes have remained unchanged, pirates’ actions and behaviour in terms of typology of attacks and modes of operations have evolved. Pirates often have deep knowledge of the profile of the targeted vessel, including its movements, crew make-up and other critical information. This proves that pirates’ activities are not random or opportunistic. Their actions, strategies and tactics are well-thought-out to ensure successful outcomes.”
According to him, they can never overemphasize the effects of these maritime crimes on their individual states and the entire Gulf of Guinea region.
In addition to depriving the coastal regions of socioeconomic and infrastructural development opportunities, they also discourage economic investments from both private sector companies and other countries because of the region’s reputation as high-risk maritime zone.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this dialogue meeting does not come at a better time than this, where we have the opportunity to interrogate the preparedness of our individual states and the entire Gulf of Guinea states to combat the growing maritime security threats in the region. I hope that these two days will offer the platform for robust engagements to explore strategies to promote understanding and cooperation among the different stakeholders gathered here and beyond. We all know that failure to explore options for interstate cooperation to contain this threat will have grave repercussions for the stability of the region and consequent implications on global maritime security. I, therefore, urge you to be open, share your relevant ideas, experiences, and establish networks that will help in future collaborations and exchange of information.”
He expressed profound gratitude to the Government of Japan and the UNDP for their support and contributions in making this consultative dialogue on Combating Maritime Crimes in the Gulf of Guinea: Challenges and Prospects possible, stating that, “Let me also thank our Liberian partners for hosting us and facilitating this meeting in Monrovia”.
On behalf of the KAIPTC, he also extended a warm welcome to all, adding: “let’s have fruitful deliberations and a pleasant stay here, in Monrovia”.
Meanwhile, following this consultative dialogue meeting, a report of the deliberations will be published and shared with all relevant stakeholders.