The UNDP has expressed worry over the 50 per cent surge in the piracy and maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea coastal areas in the first nine months in 2023.
The United Nation Development Programme Team Lead, Governance, Peace and Security, Matthew Alao, said this at the inauguration of the anti-piracy and prevention of maritime crimes course 5/2023, on Monday in Lagos.
The event was organised by the Martin Luther Agwai International Leadership and Peacekeeping Centre in conjunction with UNDP and the Government of Japan with participants from Ghana, Republic of Benin and Togo.
Mr Alao said that the spate of piracy and maritime crimes in GoG was still of concern as the steady reduction in the menace experienced between 2021 and 2022 had been wiped off.
“There is an upward push of about 50 per cent in the piracy and maritime crimes recorded in the first nine months of 2023 vis-à-vis the corresponding period in 2022. Within the period of nine months of 2023, about 70 crew were victims of piracy and maritime crimes, 54 were taken hostages, 14 were kidnapped and 2 were injured.
“This astronomical increase in the piracy and maritime crimes reported by the International Maritime Bureau of the International Chambers of Commerce in GoG is therefore a wakeup call,” he said.
Mr Alao, therefore, called on all maritime stakeholders to step up efforts in combating piracy and all forms of crimes and criminalities in GoG coastal areas.
He also said that MLAILPKC had persisted to strengthen its capacity to run courses in anti-piracy since it was commissioned by UNDP and the Government of Japan in 2021 to undertake the assignment.
The UNDP representative said that MLAILPKC, with the technical collaboration from the Nigerian Navy, had trained 117 beneficiaries in four past courses organised between 2021 and 2023 project cycle.
“The course that we are inaugurating is the fifth course conducted by the centre since 2021. This course is, therefore, timely and will complement the resilient interventions of other players in the GoG region.
“It will strengthen the skills and knowledge of the participants on anti-piracy and prevention of maritime crimes,” he said.
Mr Alao said that the intervention was a part of Japan funded project aimed to complement global, regional and national authorities’ visions and efforts at combating piracy and other maritime crimes in the GoG region.
“The intervention will reinforce synergies and partnership amongst GoG countries to combat piracy and maritime crimes.
“It will also promote international trades and ensure economic stability of the GoG member states and of their coastal communities. We thank the Government of Japan for sustaining its assistance to the Centre through funding of infrastructure and capacity building projects since 2014,” he said.
Mr Alao also appreciated the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Emmanuel Ogalla and his team for their enviable partnership with UNDP and MLAILPKC to effectively implement the project.
The Chief of Training, Nigerian Army Headquarters, Maj.-Gen. Sanni Mohammed, said that he was happy that the MLAILPKC was in collaboration with NASFA for the training.
Mr Mohammed, represented by the Commandant, NASFA, Brig.-Gen Julius Osifo, said that the collaboration was a testament to the growing synergy among the services and other national agencies.
“The maritime sector plays an important role in the economy of governments of the GoG and enormous trans-shipping and fishing activities take place in this sector.
“However, the maritime sector is challenged by crimes such as piracy, which means that creating a safe maritime environment will remain an area of special interest for various governments along the GoG.
“In this regard, we laud the effort of the Government of Japan and the UNDP in providing support for the conduct of this course on anti-piracy in the GoG,” he said.
Mr Sanni added that the Nigerian Army under the leadership of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja, was focused on transforming training institutions to international citadels of training and character building.
“I can see that some participants are either from the Navy, Maritime Police or Nigerian Maritime and Security Agency alongside our international participants. I want to request all participants, especially the international participants to make out time to explore the best areas of Lagos State because it is a microcosm of Nigeria,” he said.
Also, the Commandant, MLAILPKC, Brig.-Gen. Obinna Onubogu, said that MLAILPKC, as a UN centre of excellence, was always keen to build capacity among West African military and civilian stakeholders towards curbing maritime crimes.
Mr Onubogu added that the course objective was to build capacity of participants on issues related to piracy in the GoG and mitigate factors to improve national and regional security.
“Participants should be assured that over the next two weeks, they will gain the required knowledge on how to mitigate the contemporary challenges posed by maritime transnational organised crimes in the GoG.
“The training will be intensive and realistic because a lot of hands-on practical training has been added to the programme,” the Commandant said.