GoG and Nigeria’s Growing Troubles

The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi, Email: olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi, Email: olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi, Email: olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

If there is anything that points to the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari may not be getting a full brief on the security situation in the country, it was his expression of shock on Tuesday regarding the level of criminality across Nigeria. Incidentally, the president spoke 24 hours after Senate President Ahmed Lawan made his own lamentation about the growing lawlessness that pervades the entire country. But while it is encouraging that those in authority are finally coming to terms with the general climate of insecurity, any effort to address the situation must be holistic if it is to be meaningful. Such efforts must take into account what is happening within the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) that is strategic to our national security.

Aside Nigeria, countries in this maritime area include Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Liberia, Angola and Sierra Leone. Landlocked nations including Chad, Niger Republic, Burkina Faso, Mali and Central African Republic also depend on the GoG. Data quoting the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs from a report, says 90 percent of trade to West Africa is through the GoG. Sadly, piracy and other criminal activities have combined to render this maritime area very dangerous. Last year, the Director of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), Pottengal Mukundan said there are more attacks against ships and crews on the Nigerian waters than anywhere in the world.

In 2018, the United Nations (UN) Security Council disclosed that Nigeria was losing approximately $1.5 billion a month due to piracy, armed robbery at sea, smuggling and fuel supply fraud. According to the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre figures, the GoG accounted for 29 incidents in the first quarter of 2018, more than 40% of the global total. Of the 114 seafarers captured worldwide that year, all but one was within Nigerian waters, the report also noted. “The absence of an effective maritime governance system, in particular, hampers freedom of movement in the region, disrupts trade and economic growth, and facilitates environmental crimes,” Ambassador Michele J. Sison, the United States’ Deputy Representative to the UN, said at the time. She identified ineffective governance structures, weak rule of law, precarious legal frameworks and inadequate naval, coast guard, and maritime law enforcement as reasons for the challenge.

Last September, the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas, confirmed that Nigeria loses billions of dollars annually to this menace. He also said: “The maritime domain has been under threat by piracy, sea robbery, illicit trafficking, illegal unreported and unregulated fishing and marine pollution. Now we have emerging security threats within the Nigerian maritime domain that stem largely from non-military causes such as socio-economic agitations and a large army of unemployed and under-employed youths in the coastal communities, whose activities manifest through attacks on shipping.”

It is therefore no surprise that the IMB has characterised Nigerian waters as “one of the most dangerous shipping routes in the world.” Between October 2019 and last week, there were eleven recorded attacks on the Nigerian waters and this may not even reflect the complete picture. On 23rd September 2019, a 244-metre product tanker, named ELKA ATHINA, carrying the flag of Greece was attacked in the Lagos area. Pirates actually boarded the vessel in a cargo-stealing attempt. Similarly, on 5th October 2019, a 182-metre produce tanker named UACC MIDIF, carrying the flag of Marshall Islands, was attacked by pirates in another cargo-stealing attempt. In a more daring attack on 6th October 2019, eight-armed men in two wooden boats attacked a 195-metre vessel named USMA around the Lagos port.

On 3rd December 2019, a vessel named NAVE CONSTELLATION, carrying the flag of Hong Kong was attacked at Bonny, Rivers State by pirates who hijacked the 330-metre crude oil tanker and kidnapped the 19 crew members. On 15th December 2019, a 140-metre product tanker named DUKE, was attacked. No fewer than 20 crew members were abducted. A week later, on 24th December 2019, an attempt was made on a 274-metre long vessel named ISTANBUL. Carrying the flag of Malta, the vessel reportedly conducted evasive maneuverers causing the attack to fail. Another failed attempt was made four days later on 28th December 2019 on an LNG tanker carrying a Bermuda flag. The 288-metre long LNG tanker named KNG LOKOJA was attacked at a location described as ‘joint regime of Nigeria and Sao Tome’.

The attempted hijack on 30th December 2019 at the same location of VINALINES MIGHTY and in Bonny, a 200 metre bulk carrier named DROGBA, carrying the flag of Singapore, were foiled because security personnel on board the two vessels fought back. But in one of the most violent attacks on the second day of this year, four crew members were kidnapped and four armed guards killed on an 84-metre vessel named AMBIKA, carrying the Nigerian flag. Another 155-metre vessel named MSC GRACE, carrying a Panama flag was also attacked on 21st January 2020 by armed pirates. The attack was foiled by 13 armed personnel on a speed boat who opened fire.

Incidentally, six of the vessels involved in these attacks were classified as “suspicious” which means they could have in fact been carrying stolen crude. Yet, the loss to our economy and the danger this poses to our national security are enormous. When I sought the opinion of the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr Mele Kyari, on the implications of heightened piracy in the GoG, he minced no words: “It means increase in the premium on risk cover, delays in accepting Nigerian crude oil cargoes in the international market, adverse impact on the market pricing of Nigerian crude related to cargo delivery uncertainty and overall adverse impact on the revenues to the federation account.”

I understand Kyari’s point. The Lloyds market association of the United Kingdom has classified GoG as a war risk area resulting in insurance costs estimated to be triple that of other areas in the world. Vessels are now compelled to insure their crew and mobilize their own armed security guards to accompany every voyage. The same high cost of insurance applies for ships and cargoes. These costs are quite naturally transferred to consumers. A report by ‘Oceans Beyond Piracy’ that analysed the cost of this crime estimated that between 50 and 60 seafarers were kidnapped in the last quarter of last year in Nigeria alone and about N600 million was paid as ransom to secure their freedom.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Director General, Dr Dakuku Peterside, who expressed his concerns about the growing challenge said Nigeria has to do more. “We must pay greater attention to the Gulf of Guinea not only because our economy depends on it but also because of its implications for our national security given the quantum of illicit arms that flow through the region,” Peterside told me on Tuesday. He added that the Nigerian Navy has, at various times, “embarked on special operations to tackle piracy and criminality on waterways and the cost of these special operations is enormous. NIMASA is spending USD195 million to buy more assets plus logistics in terms of retraining of our military forces to fight piracy. These are funds that would have been applied to social services.”

The other costs of piracy and criminality on our waterways include stifling of regional trade and food price inflation since deep sea fishing has almost been taken over completely by the Chinese whose vessels are heavily fortified, security wise. Just recently, two key London based shipping associations were about to issue a statement warning their vessels not to venture into Nigerian waters but for the intervention of NIMASA under the Deep Blue project. But I understand that the international shipping community is watching to see what the Nigerian authorities will do to tackle the menace before taking a final decision that could deeply hurt our economy.

Ultimately, the issue boils down to our national security which, even Senate President Ahmed Lawan admitted on Monday, has become endangered. “I believe personally that we should restructure the security architecture. The present system does not appear to give us the outcome that we need,” said Lawan whose focus was on the killings, kidnappings, banditry and associated crimes across the country’s landscape. But the situation on the high seas is just as bad, if not worse. To address these problems, it is obvious that the president cannot continue to keep the Service Chiefs who ought to have retired many years ago. Clearly, they have nothing fresh to offer!

For Kwara, an Emblem of Shame

News that no fewer than 165 secondary schools in Kwara State have been indicted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) for widespread cheating during the last examinations is both shocking and embarrassing. “Examination malpractice constitutes some of the worst hindrance to a bright future because it negates the time tested principles of hard work, diligence, and thirst for knowledge and excellence,” said Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq who has promised to redress the situation.

However, whichever way one looks at the disgraceful development, this is a relapse to the pre-2007 era when the state was one of the hottest destinations for examination malpractices in the country; with the so-called “miracle centres”, mainly in the rural areas. The reform launched by the then commissioner for education in the state, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi (who would later be minister) tackled this menace aggressively. Improving the quality of teaching in schools was at the centre of his reform, appropriately named ‘Every Child Counts’. With support from the World Bank and the DFID/ESSPIN programmes, Kwara became a reference point for what was possible, including prosecuting people for examination offences. WAEC recognized these efforts and wrote a letter commending the state government at the time.

Unfortunately, the government that took over in 2011 lacked either the will or the capacity to sustain the efforts of the preceding years, even though they all belonged to the same party. This failure of policy continuity, among others, is a major governance challenge in Nigeria. The shameful WAEC report is also a direct indicator of everything that has gone wrong with our country—the failure of governance and the collapse of our value system.

Meanwhile, although the incident that led to the current decision by WAEC happened under the last administration, the ball is now squarely in the court of Governor AbdulRazaq. Yet available reports on the quality of appointment he has made to the education ministry are, to put it mildly, not encouraging. An inexperienced elementary school teacher who has her own struggles with English language can hardly inspire confidence to lead the necessary reform in a critical sector. The governor should either review this appointment or personally lead the charge.

Parents too have a great role to play. They must be made to understand the connection between examination malpractices and the endemic joblessness among their wards. The 21st century job market does not care so much for certificates as it does for the real skill that the prospective employee brings to the market. Those who obtain certificates through fraudulent means will eventually meet their nemesis when they cannot justify such credentials with actual competence.

For Governor AbdulRasak, the challenge in Kwara State cannot be made clearer.

Sex for Grades on African Campuses

Last Sunday afternoon, I hosted two respected scholars in my home: Professor Jacob K. Olupona of Harvard (currently spending part of his sabbatical year at the centre he is building at Ife as an advanced summer institute for university lecturers) and the Vice Chancellor of my alma mater, Obafemi Awolowo University, Professor Eyitayo Ogunbodede. Both were on their way from Sokoto to Ife through Ibadan airport when they decided to use their flight lay-over period to visit me. In the process, I engaged Ogunbodede on the latest sexual harassment scandal involving a female student and male lecturer in the Department of International Relations. The case, he assured me, is already being investigated. More importantly, Ogunbodede also shared with me measures that are being put in place to rid the campus of the menace of sexual harassment of female students. I consider his ideas ground breaking.

Meanwhile, for those who have been asking about my coming book, ‘NAKED ABUSE: Sex for Grades in African Universities’, I can now project that it will be out by the end of March or early April. But it is already written. Inspiration for the book came in December 2018 from the Director, West African Office, Ford Foundation, Mr Innocent Chukwuma, who believes that sexual harassment on campuses of institutions of higher learning is a serious social menace that must be tackled. Fortunately, I received tremendous support from the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, both of who made themselves available and asked their people to work with me to provide whatever information I needed with respect to the project.

But I owe so much to many people, especially the respected women who helped me avoid what could have been tragic pitfalls on such a sensitive issue. After reading the first draft, the suggestions offered by Ms Jackie Farris, the Director General of the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation and Dr Abimbola Adelakun, an Assistant Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas, Austin, were quite invaluable. Same with Ms Ayisha Osori, Executive Director of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and Dr Chidi Amuta.

My appreciation also goes to Mr Ibraheem Sanusi, the Addis Ababa-based Advisor on the Joint African Union – German Cooperation on Citizens Participation and Innovative Data Use. He explored his contacts within the continent to connect me with Dr Melvis Ndiloseh, a senior lecturer and policy analyst in Cameroon, Ms Nancy Muigei, a governance expert in Kenya and Nebila Abdulmelik, a Pan-African and feminist writer from Ethiopia. Through my friend, Asavia Philip Nampandu, I was also able to access Ms Dianah Ahumuza, a lecturer at the School of Law, Makerere University, Uganda. There are of course many others across the continent whose assistance will be acknowledged in the book. Even from the United Kingdom as a Chevening Scholar, my aburo, JJ Omojuwa offered tremendous assistance.

In writing the book, my main objectives include raising the profile of discourse on sexual harassment in tertiary institutions on the continent, deepening awareness of the drivers, risks and consequences and influencing the development and implementation of policies and systems to tackle the challenge. Exposing the culture of sex-for-grades, I believe, will not only help highlight the malaise, it could also kick-start efforts on how to curb predatory behaviour on our campuses. And to borrow from the words of the Ekiti State First Lady, Mrs Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, in the Foreword: “…as the young people say these days, Olusegun Adeniyi has ‘shaken a lot of tables’.”

Watch out for the book!

• You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdict and on www.olusegunadeniyi.com

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