By Kenneth Jukpor
Despite Nigeria’s huge investments in maritime security infrastructure, robust international, regional and local partnerships to tackle piracy, a delegation from European Union led by the Senior Coordinator for the Gulf of Guinea (GoG), Amb. Nicolas Martinez, recently attributed the drop in piracy activities in the GoG to COVID-19 pandemic.
The Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh revealed this yesterday while speaking at the 2022 Stakeholders’ Forum organized by the Alumni of Maritime Academy of Nigeria (AMANO).
According to the NIMASA boss, the EU delegation made this claim during a visit to his office as they argued that a drop in shipping activities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic led to the reduction in piracy activities in the nation and the entire Gulf of Guinea.
His words: “A delegation from the European Union said that the drop in piracy in Nigeria is because of COVID-19 as most ships aren’t coming into Nigeria. I laughed and asked them what method of research they used to come up with such deduction. Did they use historical, analytical or statistical research method to arrive at such claims that the drop in piracy in Nigeria and the entire Gulf of Guinea?”
“We can give the statistical history of piracy in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea to show when the problem because worse and how it has improved in the last few years. In November and December 2020, Nigeria recorded the worst piracy incidents with an average of six attacks weekly. By first quarter in 2021, we started recording one attack per month. By third quarter of 2021, we broke a 27-year record of the lowest piracy incidents since 1994. We raised the bar from December 2021 to January 2022.
“By the end of March 2022, the international maritime community removed Nigeria from the list of nations plagued with piracy. These analysis, reports and research aren’t made by Nigerians, but the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). IMB is the global body recognized and approved to make the findings and reports.”
Meanwhile, he commended the Nigerian Navy for its strategic efforts in combating piracy, noting that NIMASA only provides policy framework and support whilst Nigerian Navy carries out the actual battle.
He equally commended AMANO for organizing the event, stressing that MAN Oron graduates are excelling across various sectors of maritime internationally and they have also been giving him insight on how to best manage the maritime environment.
Also speaking at the event, the Chairman of Starz Group, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun tasked the federal government to help Nigerian ship-owners with necessary fiscal support to enable them build capacity of seafarers via employment.
He, however, lamented that the maritime opportunities for tourism, power, fishing, and others haven’t been fully harnessed due to security challenges, illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and pollution.
“Apart from being a ship owner, I am also a ship repairer and I have been operating my shipyard for over 20 years. Having celebrated my 71st birthday recently, I’m no longer looking out for contracts for myself but for the young ones. Starz shipyard has been operating a 500ton floating dock since inception in 2000 and has carried out over 1000 dry docking of various vessel types and sizes. To meet the current industry requirements, the shipyard is scaling up its operations by expanding the shipyard to about 9,000tons lifting capacity and 150meters long,” he added.
In his welcome address, the President of AMANO, Mr. Emmanuel Maiguwa opined that seafaring in Nigeria should be seen from an aspect of national development where local seafarers are developed for national and international fleet.
According to him, a country which doesn’t have competent seafarers shouldn’t begin to talk about national fleet, even as he asserted that seafaring also plays a role in Nigeria’s national security with local seafarers complementing territorial integrity.
His words: “A situation where you have several ships trading and it’s dominated by foreigners means there will be leakage of information about the Nigerian terrain that should only be accessible by the Nigerian Navy and the maritime administration. This could make it difficult for NIMASA and Nigerian Navy to protect the nation’s territorial integrity. When there are conflicts and merchant ships are needed for support; where the ships are manned by foreigners, how do we provide this support?”
The event was attended by several maritime bigwigs including; the President of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung, President of Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Capt. Tajudeen Alao, Port Manager, Lagos Ports Complex, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mrs. Olufunmilayo Olotu, among others.