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Nigeria Pirates Kidnapped 130 Seamen In 2020 –Report

•Gulf of Guinea listed as world’s most dangerous waters

Paul Ogbuokiri

As the Gulf of Guinea remained the hotspot of maritime piracy and sea criminalities globally in year 2020, global maritime watchdog, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said kidnapping of seafarers by pirates in the region hit a record surpassing 95 per cent of the kidnapping of seamen that took place all over the year in the year.

It noted that the criminals responsible for the pirate activities in the West African waters were mainly from Nigeria’s delta region, even as it disclosed that the usually wellarmed and violent gangs defy regional navies and marauding further out to sea. This was contained in the IMB annual piracy report released last week.

According to the report, pirates in the West African region kidnapped 130 seafarers in 22 separate incidents, accounting for all but five of those seized worldwide last year. The previous record, in 2019, was 121.

The IMB’s annual piracy report said that overall armed robbery and piracy incidents rose to 195 last year, up from 162 in 2019, an increase it attributed to attacks in the Gulf of Guinea and armed robbery in the Singapore Straits.

IMB said that drawing from the above report, the best way to qualify the dangerous coastal area of the Gulf of Guinea is to brand it the “centrepoint” of contemporary sea piracy.

“The latest statistics confirm the increased capabilities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea with more and more attacks taking place further from the coast,” said IMB director Michael Howlett.

“Despite prompt action by navies in the region, there remains an urgent need to address this crime,” he added. This came as President Muhammadu Buhari had given his assent to the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, 2019, in an unprecedented move billed to bring a dramatic improvement in security on the country’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone.

The Presidential assent, dated June 24, 2019, followed the passage of the bill by the Senate and House of Representatives on April 9, 2019 and April 30, 2019, respectively.

The bill passed by the Eighth National Assembly gives effect to the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982, and the International Convention on the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Navigation (SUA), 1988, and its protocols.

Nigeria spending $186m to battle sea piracy Nigeria is spending over $186 million to combat piracy in a bid to safeguard its waters and vessels moving in and out of the country.

The fund according the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi is meant to acquire three new ready-for-war ships, three aircrafts, 12 vessels and 20 amphibious vehicles to combat the menace of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Sunday Telegraph learnt that some of these platforms have already arrived the country but an expert in the industry described the project as a while elephant as NIMASA as an institution does not have the capacity to man the platforms even as it does not have the legal authority to bear arms to chase the sea criminal in the high sea.

Whither Nigeria’s antipiracy project Six years after the Buhariled government jettisoned the result oriented Memorandum of Understanding NIMASA had with an indigenous firm and a world class team of experts at the Maritime Safety Department of NIMASA, were frustrated out of the organisation, Nigeria has Gulf of Guinea piracy believed to be the handiwork of Nigerian criminal gangs from the Niger Delta region has become the sore point of world shipping trade.

A that is been heard from the Federal Ministry of Transportation and NIMASA is award of big commercial contract for the supply of platform to a certain Isreali, while the Nigerian Navy seems to be  on its own, working with a private security firm, Ocean Marine Solution (OMSL) for a fee provide a safe haven for vessels as the Lagos anchorage to avoid been attacked, any vessels that fails to pay is on her own.

NIMASA seem unprepared to tackle the menace of piracy and sea robber Recall that President Buhari a little over one year said his government was determined to rid the country’s waters of all forms of criminalities, stressing that with the cooperation of the international community, the entire maritime domain of the GoG would be secured and safe for navigation.

However, indications are is that piracy, armed robbery, and kidnapping for ransom continue to serve as significant threats to vessels transiting or operating in the GoG, where Nigeria occupies a central position leading to placement of war risk surcharge accummulating to N67.5 billion on goods coming to Nigeria in 2019 alone.

According to the Office of Naval Intelligence’s (USA) “Weekly Piracy Reports,” 72 reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea occurred in the GoG region this year as of July 9, 2019.

“Attacks, kidnappings for ransom (KFR), and boardings to steal valuables from the ships and crews are the most common types of incidents with approximately 75 percent of all incidents taking place off Nigeria.

During the first six months of 2019, there were 15 kidnapping and 3 hijackings in the GoG,” the naval intelligence said.

Most KFR operations in the GoG occur around the Niger Delta and target vessels (tankers, tugs, offshore supply vessels, fishing vessels, and cargo vessels) with expatriate crew due to their potentially high ransom value. Motherships have been used to support KFR operations up to 150 nautical miles offshore.

Criminals/armed KFR groups have been known to fire upon targeted vessels prior to attempting to board them. KFR groups generally kidnap two to six high value crewmembers to include the master, chief engineer, and any Western crewmember.
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