The primary responsibility of a military outfit like the Nigerian Navy (NN) is the defence and protection of territorial integrity of the country in the country’s local and international waters. In the international waters, the critical area is the Gulf of Guinea made up of the maritime area located in the western part of African including the eight countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean – Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sao Tome and Principe. Few years ago, Angola and Congo joined the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC). There is also the Lake Chad which Nigeria shares with Cameroun, Chad, and Niger Republic.
Since the establishment of the NN some 56 years ago, it has been alert to its responsibilities in checkmating security threats to the country and in recent years, NN’s vigilance has been strengthened given rising cases of maritime crimes all over the world. It’s proactive measures have led to Nigeria recording a milestone as the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre in its report stated that Maritime Piracy and Armed Robbery in Nigeria’s waterways and waters around the Gulf of Guinea reached 22-year low in 2017.
According to the Report, with a total of 180 incidents of Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships reported to the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in the year under review, this is the lowest annual number of incidents since 1995 when 188 reports were received.
As part of its proactive measures, the NN only last month organized its 2018 International Maritime Conference at the Admiralty Conference Centre, Naval Dockyard, Lagos with the theme “Enhancing an Integrated Maritime Strategy for Security of the Gulf of Guinea.”
To underscore the importance and timeliness of the Conference, over 350 participants from 37 countries including heads of navies and coastguards of Gulf of Guinea member states, top government functionaries, serving and retired military officers, captains of industry, international maritime partners as well as relevant local and international maritime stakeholders attended the Conference.
The two papers discussed during the Conference titled: “Maritime Security Synergy Amongst the Gulf of Guinea Navies: The Journey So Far and ‘’Developing Capacity for Sub Regional Maritime Protection: Challenges and Prospects for the Gulf of Guinea Countries” were a clear acknowledgement by the organisers of the existential threats such as piracy, sea robbery, Illegal Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing amongst others, continue to pose to the maritime security and well-being of the national economies of members’ states and international maritime community.
Arising from the deliberations of the papers presented and outcome of the interactive sessions, a total of 10 resolutions were made including the recommendation that member states should institute and develop a funding scheme to support the navies of member states and that member states should honour financial commitments made to community.
It was also resolved that Gulf of Guinea member states should contribute platforms for a zonal fleet under a unified command which will exercise operational command and control within the maritime boundaries of member states. The importance of this very recommendation can be seen from the successes of ECOMOG military operations in West Africa and the multi-national military onslaught against Boko Haram Islamic insurgents in the Lake Chad region. Once the GGC member states are able to create a common military command and fund it well, the level of maritime crime in the area will go down significantly and the NN would have saved Nigeria a lot of security challenge.
The Conference also recommended that member states should harmonise all maritime security initiatives and legal frameworks through ratification in their national legislations, develop a joint maritime security operational procedure and establish a common mechanism for information sharing and develop capacity for local ship building.
Other recommendations are that GGC member states’ navies should improve training through collaborative efforts, develop mutual trust and confidence amongst each other, develop awareness amongst the political class on the challenges in the maritime domain and the need to transmit political will to definite commitments and, that the Gulf of Guinea navies should strive to implement resolutions taken during conferences.
The NN by initiating this military regional platform, has not only demonstrated that it is a regional leader but a leader that will not have jealous, disgruntled and saboteur followers. It is an acknowledged fact that one of the major problems that faces Nigeria in regional and sub-regional engagements is that her neighbours are very jealous against her and this has always denied Nigeria the goodwill of her small neighbours in international outings.
The NN has also made impressive marks in developing local capacity in ship building and maintenance. In fact, President Muhammadu Buhari has already commissioned several home-designed-and-built ships, boats and other crafts by the Naval Dockyard Limited in Victoria Island and Naval Shipyard Limited, Port Harcourt. This effort in ship building has already started yielding results by reducing dependence on foreign nations and saving a lot of foreign exchange for Nigeria.
As internal security crises continue to overwhelm the police, the NN has played significant role with the other arms of the Nigerian military in supporting the police to maintain internal security across the country.
The AUTHORITY Newspaper advises that it would be a wise action for the federal government to fund the NN well because criminals and their nefarious activities are extremely hard to contain on the seas especially the international waters.