Christian Akpabio

There is presently a pervading issue across West African countries, and it is long overdue for them to take control of their maritime environment. However, these expectations show no indication of materializing in the short term. There is a growing interest in the Gulf of Guinea, and indeed the global village is impatient for these States to take responsibility for security and translate it to developmental indices of trade and commerce derivable from the maritime environment. The nations of the sub-region have embarked on individual and collective efforts to confront the myriad of security challenges that have continued to set them back, with little known results and much disharmony, but a solution would of course give the local and global players in the maritime industry huge benefits from such attainments.

As a point of concern, Nigeria which stands as the king player, driver of many initiatives in the region and continent has relatable experience in general. Current consciousness can be traced to the global economic downturn, terrorism (the inflow for small and light arms for Boko Haram, kidnapping, arm robbery, etc.), and piracy (in particular the spate of militancy in the Niger Delta which has impacted negatively and heavily on shipping direly needed for the importation of finished products, exploitation, and exportation of crude oil and gas as well as some prodding by development partners).

Issues surrounding the maritime environment which leads to maritime security:

1) Lack of adequate infrastructure

2) Weak policy formation and regulation system

3) Limited institutional capacity to undertake policy analysis and decisions

4) Massive unemployment has led to several youths becoming maritime criminals

There is a reawakening of consciousness of the sea as a major line of communication, source of the world’s food, industrial raw materials, and indeed energy. This re-awakening has brought to the fore the issues of maritime security. The consequences of maritime insecurity could be economic, social, and even developmental, and very importantly the stability of a nation (Nigeria as a case study with the inflow for weapons from the marine line). It is obvious that the state of a nation’s security affects the national economy and on the other hand, the state of national development impacts on national security, hence the nexus could be:

  1. Low production level and low economic level of wellbeing of the people would prompt them to engage in desperate acts capable of impinging on the security of the country.
  2. The poor economy also affects security as allocation to the security apparatus would be affected adversely.
  3. The state of national security on the other hand also impacts the national economy. The different factors of economic development cannot thrive in an insecure environment.
  4. An improved economy means more employment opportunities and a better standard of living, fewer people involved in criminal activities which impact on national security positively or vice versa.
  5. An improved economy means more allocation to the security agencies for training, equipment, and operations to enhance security.
  6. A good economy enables improvement in infrastructure like roads, hospital, water, and electricity, etc, which impacts the human standard of living
  7. Insecurity scares away foreign investment as there will be capital flight, tourists would be scared away and these impacts on national security.

Possible Solutions

1) Community Policing (very importantly set up a Coastal Guard)

2) Set up Coast Guards to work with the Nigerian Navy, and also accelerated action on the acquisition of platforms for NIMASA, Nigeria Navy, Marine Police and other agencies responsible for maritime safety and security.

3) Prescriptive Maritime Policy Formulation and legislation dealing directly with, piracy and its punishment (the national legal framework for maritime administration and security are the: Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act 2007, Merchant Shipping Act 2007, Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003 and Nigerian Navy Act 1964 (as amended) should be revisited and made effective).

4) Regional Cooperation between the coastal West African countries. Also, the establishment of a joint maritime security equipment fund and partnership between government, major actors, and coastal communities.

5) The establishment of an inter-agency central Information Centre among security agencies to facilitate the collection, collation and dissemination of information and intelligence for effective response. Co-operation between the navies of the Gulf of Guinea States for the joint use of resources for information and intelligence gathering, which will lead to the pooling together of military resources by the government of the Gulf of Guinea states.

6) The three C’s of security: Communication, Co-operation, and Co-ordination are VITAL.

Maritime is “the state wherein the country’s marine assets, maritime practices, territorial integrity, and coastal peace and order are protected, conserved and enhanced through internal or in combination with external mechanisms’’ and internationally ‘Maritime Awareness’, ‘Maritime Policy’ and an ‘Integrated Maritime Governance’ are essential for good order at sea. Effective maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, therefore, requires not only regional and international cooperation but also effective management by littoral and associated land-locked states throughout their maritime jurisdiction zones.


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