AU Member-States Sign New African Maritime Charter

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By Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

Nigeria and other member-states of the African Union (AU) have signed an African Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development in Lome, Togo.

A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President, Mr Laolu Akande, said Osinbajo signed for Nigeria on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Akande quoted the vice-president as saying that without securing the seas and oceans, the continental ‘blue economy,’ would be jeopardised.

After signing for Nigeria,  Osinbajo said: “the blue economy is one of the major areas of focus of the charter.”

He said  without security, the blue economy-reference for the huge economic activities and benefits derivable from around the waters would be jeopardized by maritime crimes like piracy and smuggling.

“All of the economic activities that take place around the seas and oceans are jeopardized, if security is not assured. And that is one of the reasons that this Charter is devoted to ensuring security.”

Speaking with reporters at the end of the summit, the vice-president noted  that the Gulf of Guinea and the Horn of Africa in particular “are areas where there had been a lot of piracy and in our case, the Delta.”

He explained that this was why Nigeria and other AU nations were devoted to the question of security of the oceans.

“The most important thing for us is that we are working with other members-states of the AU to ensure we are able to police the seas and our waters. To ensure that we are able to yield the maximum benefits from the blue economy and that is really why we are here, and so focused on this,” according Osinbajo.

Continuing, he said the focus on the maritime issue was because “as we know 90 per cent of African trade is by the seas, so no matter how we slice it, this is absolutely important to us.”

By signing the charter, African leaders intend to improve security of the coast and hope to inspire greater, coordinated economic activities and development.

The charter is meant to ensure improved information-sharing between coastal countries and others in Africa, a gap pirates and smugglers have taken advantage  on the African waters. Out of the 54 AU countries, 38 are coastal.

Observers say Africa could have lost as much as hundreds of billion in dollars  to unbridled activities of piracy and smuggling on the African waters in the past few decades.