The Federal Executive Council FEC, Nigeria’s highest policy decision body has approved a $195 million maritime security contract with an Israeli firm, HLS International Limited as part of efforts to curb increasing criminal activities such as piracy, sea robbery, kidnapping, oil theft, illegal bunkering, smuggling and illegal trafficking in drugs and persons within the Gulf of Guinea, especially Nigeria.

This is part of the country’s four-thronged approach towards total elimination of these criminal activities in the region, especially on Nigeria’s territorial waters, which includes enhancing intelligence gathering among the relevant agencies of the government, adopting a legal framework to prosecute suspects, regional integration and cooperation as well as seeking global partnership to end the menace of piracy.

Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration ad Safety Agency NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who spoke at the just concluded conference of the G7++ Friends of the Gulf of Guinea, hosted by Nigeria in Lagos, said that the award of the contract was part of Federal Government’s commitment towards eradicating piracy and other maritime insecurity challenges not only in the country but also in the Gulf of Guinea.

Under the contract, the company would provide maritime aircrafts, helicopters, modern security platform for surveillance and patrol of the waters and other hardware security equipment in addition to training Nigeria’s maritime security personnel and development timely response capabilities.

He also disclosed that as part of the four-throng approach to eradicating criminality in the region, the various government agencies such as NIMASA, the Nigerian Ports Authority and the Nigerian Navy have adopted modalities for intelligence gathering and sharing that would enhance a harmonised and integrated approach towards fighting the menace.

It was also gathered that the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Transport is putting finishing touches to an anti-piracy bill, which would be forwarded to the National Assembly for passage to provide a legal framework for the fight against piracy and other forms of insecurity in the maritime domain.

The NIMASA-boss observed that Nigeria would be the first country in Africa to enact an anti-piracy legislation, which when passed into law, would provide the legal framework for prosecuting suspects, saying that the absence of a legal framework has slowed down the anti-piracy war in the country, since suspects cannot be prosecuted under any law in the country.

He also disclosed that             Nigeria is also intensifying its efforts towards regional integration among the various countries that make up the Gulf of Guinea, without which the war would not be effective sine piracy attacks do not begin and end within one jurisdiction.

“Nigeria is showing leadership, especially in terms of promoting regional integration within the West and Central Africa. This is because no maritime crime begins and ends in one jurisdiction as the criminals may attack in one jurisdiction and may use the next jurisdiction for escape and refuge and so we must integrate the region in terms of anti-piracy activities”, he said.

He therefore commended members of the G7++ Friends of the Gulf of Guinea, which is an initiative of the Italian Government for their partnership and support over the years, insisting that the country would continue to play her leadership role in terms of enhancing regional cooperation and integration in the fight against piracy.

Nigeria’s Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, had while speaking at the event, further restated Federal Government’s commitment towards fighting the scourge of piracy and other forms of criminalities in the nation’s territorial waters.

He also said that considering the importance of collaboration in the fight against maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria would actively implement the 2013 Yaounde Declaration, which gave rise to establishment of the Inter-regional Coordination Centre ICC between the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS and ECCAS.

To this effect, he assured that Nigeria would dedicatedly implement the Yaounde Code of Conduct against Illicit Activities.