President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, called for an international collaboration between the Nigerian Navy and other stakeholders in tackling maritime security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said this at the opening of 2016 International Maritime Conference to mark the Nigerian Navy diamond jubilee celebration in Lagos. He was represented by the Minister for Defence, Mansur Mohammad Dan-Ali.
The theme of the programme was: ‘Enhancing Collaboration for Effective Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea”.
Buhari said that the challenges of maritime threats had become critical to the nation as it had gone beyond the scope of capability of the nation to deal with.
According to him, the situation came with devastating impact on Nigeria’s operational environment in the Gulf of Guinea as there are economic opportunities that abound in these waters.
“The Nigerian Navy at 60 and since inception had applied only the most optimal policies and strategies to resolve maritime challenges in our maritime areas.
“They have remained constant in ensuring sea control and arrest of illegal bunkers, smugglers, pipeline vandals and other miscreants in the fight against illegalities in the nation’s maritime domain and beyond.
“But the situation has gone beyond our capability to handle. It, therefore, calls for a greater international collaboration between the Nigerian Navy and other international maritime stakeholders.
“This conference, however, is relevant to appraisal of multi-national approaches to enhancing collaboration for effective maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea
“I urge you to keep the flag flying and the government is solidly behind you,” Buhari said.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice- Admiral Ibok Ette Ekwe-Ibas, said that the conference would discuss collaborating commitment to find lasting solution to maritime challenges in the country and in African, particularly at the Gulf of Guinea.
He said that the maritime crimes and threats at the Gulf of Guinea was a serious concern as it affected economic life line of member states.
“These maritime threats have become trans-national and have gone beyond the capability of one nation to contain.
“Therefore, this conference would provide a platform to collectively offer the way forward that will address the mirages of challenges and enhance maritime policing, ” he said.
Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Adebule, said that the international waterways had been the main corridor through which international commerce had nurtured relations among foreign countries.
Ambode said that the challenges of sea pirates which had accounted for about 30 per cent of attacks in African regional waters between 2003 and 2011 had become a recurrent issue affecting commercial shipping and trade activities of countries.
According to him, the economic benefits that are abound in maritime trade for African nations and investors can only be fully realised with the safety and security of the offshore boundaries
“Unless we collectively tackle the challenges, it will continue to affect the fortunes of Marchant vessels and fishing tourists negatively with consequent impact on commerce and trade development for countries in Africa and around the world,” he said.
Also speaking, Gov. Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State, commended the Nigerian Navy for their patriotic zeal and role in strengthening national security.
“In the face of many security challenges, the Nigerian Navy has been playing a critical role, especially in the fight against insurgency to ensure peace in the country.
“They have been doing a lot to check the activities of pirates in the coastal areas, especially in Akwa Ibom state.
“Our administration will continue to support and ensure strong partnership with the navy in their quest to combat maritime crimes and ensure safety on our coastal areas,”Udom said.
He said that he would donate two Gulf Boats to the Nigerian Navy to enhance sea patrol and keep the waters safe.
Senior officers, serving and retired, navies from other African countries, secirity experts, captain of industries attended the conference.