- Harps on maritime security, regional stability
- Calls for concerted efforts against piracy, human trafficking
The President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari has emerged the Chairman of the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) with a call for improved efforts against piracy, human trafficking and other criminal activities in the region.
Buhari, who was represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, made this call in Abuja on Thursday at the 4th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of GGC.
Speaking shortly after the confirmation of his appointment, the President stressed on the need to renew commitment to deal with emerging socio-economic and security challenges facing the commission.
He noted that the members could achieve this by collectively taking measures to check violations of domestic and international treaties in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said: “In conformity with the theme of the 4th Ordinary Session which is: ‘A Vibrant Gulf of Guinea Region for sustainable Development’, let us renew our commitment to making the Gulf of Guinea more effective and a truly vibrant partner in all our efforts, be the regional, national or international, to ensure a zone of peace, security and sustainable development for our countries, our peoples and other stakeholders in the region.”
Buhari listed the challenges facing the commission to include a rise in maritime insurance premiums for vessels coming into the Gulf of Guinea, increased threats and reduced commercial traffic to the region as well as unregulated and unreported fishing along the Gulf of Guinea.
He also charged the member states to take measures to reduce pollution and environmental degradation in the Gulf of Guinea.
Buhari however, commended individual efforts of some of the member states who improved the capacities and capability of their Navy and other relevant organisations to enable them perform their duties more effectively.
He also commended ECOWAS and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS/CEEAC) for establishing maritime regional centres for maritime security.
“This effort is capped by the establishment of the inter-regional coordination centre based in Yaoundé, Cameroun, as the collaborative link between the two maritime regional centres led by ECOWAS and ECCAS,” he said.
Speaking further, the President called on the member states to always fulfill their financial dues and obligations to the commission to ensure effective operation and performance of the CGC.
He also congratulated Ghana for being a new member Commission, while commending the staff of the GGC secretariat for their untiring efforts in sustaining the commission
In the same vein, National Security Adviser (NSA), Maj-Gen. Babagana Monguno (rtd), underscored the importance of maritime security, saying regional, continental and global stability, was largely dependent upon same.
Monguno also harped on the link between maritime security and economic prosperity of member-nations of GGC.
While noting that the GGC was intended to serve as veritable framework for consultations among member-nations, the NSA disclosed that the Federal Government was developing the capacity of its military, especially the Navy, to deal with such threats as sea piracy, irregular migration, human trafficking and other maritime challenges.
“As you are all aware, the Gulf of Guinea Commission is a framework for consultations among the countries of the Gulf of Guinea for cooperation and development, as well as for prevention, management and resolution of conflicts that may arise from the delimitation of borders and the economic and commercial exploitation of natural resources within the territorial boundaries.
“The current situation in the Gulf of Guinea region, especially the surge in illegal activities of piracy, illicit drugs, human trafficking, illegal immigration, environmental pollution and degradation, calls for greater attention to be paid by member- countries to curbing these activities.
“Suffice it to say that maritime security and economic prosperity are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. improvement of maritime security can positively contribute to increased national, regional and continental stability and by the same token make a substantial contribution to global security. In this regard, Nigeria has continued to develop the capacity of its armed forces particularly the navy and other maritime agencies to effectively tackle these challenges.
“Indeed, the surveillance capabilities of the Nigerian navy and the Nigerian maritime administration and safety agency are being developed to ensure a secured environment within the domain as well as in the Gulf of Guinea”, Monguno said.
He identified the signing of an agreement with the government of Equatorial Guinea on the establishment of combined maritime policing and security patrol committee, among others, as some of the steps taken to demonstrate the seriousness attached to protecting the maritime domain.
Also speaking, the Secretary of the Commission, Dr. Florence Adenike Ukong, said the secretariat has proposed a plan of revitalization of the commission which among other structural and cultural measures has set up five specialized committees.
Ukong said the first, is the Peace and security committee which is expected to address issues of related to drug trafficking, arms trafficking, maritime piracy, human trafficking, development of security architecture for the maritime space, illegal bunkering, money laundry and other financial crimes.
She said: “Immigration specialized committee: This is expected to deal with situations leading to illegal and irregular immigration, irregular requests for political asylum and issues related to the demarcation of borders among the states of the region.
“Oil and environment specialized committee: to address issues related to oil exploitation so that best practices can be applied in region as well as the issues of environmental pollution.”
“Fishing: To address issues related illegal, irregular and unreported fishing, the conservation of fishing resources and joint management of common water resources.
“Funding committee: today, the financing of projects and programmes as well as funding of the Commission.”
She said the idea to establish the committees is to involve relevant agencies of member states to deliberate more freely and exchange views on best practices adopted in each state to tackle identified problems and recommend such for region-wide adoption, adaptation and implementation.
Ukong said the adoption of the revitalization plan of the commission will enable it redouble its efforts to implement the objectives for which it was established.
“Without your support for these projects we cannot make headway.
“Any organization needs financial support to survive and meet its needs without which we shall always scratch the surface.
“Without the support for fulfilling its programmes, the organization may indirectly be overtaken by other stakeholders and may live unwilling to address the current challenges; this may not be in the interest of region.
“We need political and financial support to give the commission a chance, a life line to proof itself as a veritable vehicle of development of the social and economic wellbeing of the region in other to make the region economic palace a reality and a region of peace and security for development.”