Maritime stakeholders from over 80 countries, which cut across sub-regional, regional and across international frontiers, have called for the formulation of legal, policy, regulatory and institutional framework as well as building of capacities not only in the Gulf of Guinea but also across the globe in order to enhance maritime security.

This is sequel to the end of the three-day Global Maritime Security Conference GMSC organised in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city between October 7-9, 2019 by the Federal Ministry of Transport in conjunction with Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, and the Nigerian Navy on behalf of Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea states.

In attendance at the event with the theme: “Managing and Securing Our Waters” were representatives from over 80 countries in Africa, Europe, America and Asia.

The conference, which came up with a 17-point recommendation tagged ‘the Abuja Declaration 2019’ was convened in reaction to the reported increasing cases of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, the interconnectedness of the maritime environment and the shared responsibility for effective ocean governance and maritime security within the region.

The stakeholders also observed that material, human, financial, technological and other resources were needed to enhance security in the GoG, even as the ways and means of implementing the necessary strategies for enhanced maritime security in the region were also canvassed.

The conference therefore resolved that GoG and her international partners should give priority attention to training and capacity building for relevant stakeholders involved in maritime security including national maritime authorities, law enforcement agencies and navies as first responders.

That Navies/Coast Guards and maritime law enforcement agencies in the GoG states should engage in regular joint maritime operations, including with international partners, to harmonise operational procedures, training standards and foster interoperability.

It was also recommended that the countries in the GoG region should explore the possibility of designated maritime courts to handle cases of sea robbery, piracy and other maritime offences to ensure quick dispensation of cases in addition to capacity building and sensitisation of judiciary on crucial relevant legislation.

That GoG states should put more efforts to implement various agreed strategies at the continental, regional and national levels. That GoG states with the support of regional organisations like the ECOWAS, ECCAS, ICC and relevant international organisations should continue to ratify and fully domesticate the provisions of the relevant international conventions including UNCLOS 1982, SUA and Port States Measures Agreement.

That the member states of the region should explore alternative and innovative sources of funding for their maritime security and that law enforcement agencies should enhance the effectiveness of their response to maritime incidents, that they should also establish repeatable, documentable frameworks for interagency cooperation.

Other recommendations include that GoG states are encouraged to strengthen mechanisms and structures for engagement with the local communities, fishing communities and seafarers including private stakeholders for economic benefits and should strengthen, including funding, national, zonal and regional maritime domain awareness centres to enhance information sharing and coordination.

Presented on behalf of other stakeholders by the DG NIMASA, the communiqué reads in part: “GoG States are encouraged to sustain regular meeting of heads of states, heads of navies/coast guards and other maritime enforcement agencies on issues of maritime security for mutual benefit. Relevant regional maritime agencies should engage industry experts/representatives for informed policy decision on maritime security and related issues.  

”GoG States should promote strategic communications initiative to enhance awareness on maritime security concerns and potential benefits. GoG States should engage in maritime spatial planning of coastal and urban areas to ensure that maritime security vulnerabilities are not created particularly in proximity to critical maritime infrastructure. GoG States should explore opportunities for maritime law enforcement through targeted engagement with coastal and fishing communities to support maritime security efforts.

“GoG States and the international community should put mechanisms in place to ensure that resources that are illegally harvested or explored in the GoG, including stolen oil and Illegal Unreported and Unregulated Fishery, are intentionally banned as was the case with the “blood diamonds”. Conveners of this conference in liaison with ECOWAS, ECCAS, ICC should constitute a GMSC expert working group to drive the implementation and decisions arising from the conference.

“The Minister of Transport of Nigeria should communicate the decisions and recommendations of this conference to the Presidency of Nigeria and onward to ECOWAS, ECCAS, GGC, AU, IMO and other international partners”.

Minister of State for Transport, Senator Gbemi Saraki, while delivering closing remarks, disclosed that an expert group that would meet on a quarterly basis to review the implementation of these recommendations, insisting that the Federal Government would do all in its powers to ensure that the growing incidences of maritime crimes in the all-important Gulf of Guinea region was reduced to its barest minimum.