Enhancing Nigeria’s Maritime Security for Improved National Prosperity

Enhancing Nigeria’s Maritime Security for Improved National Prosperity

The maritime domain is a resource provider and critical contributor to growth and prosperity of the countries lining its coasts as well as those inwards due to the access its grants them. Therefore, to enhance national prosperity, as well as address the myriad threats of piracy, crude oil theft and illegal fishing, the Nigerian Navy recently held the 2021 Chief of Naval Staff Conference,
Chiemelie Ezeobi reports

“Whoever commands the sea, commands the trade; whoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world and consequently the world itself”. The above quote was credited to Walter Raleigh by the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) of the Nigerian Navy (NN) at the recent 2021 Chief of the Naval Staff Conference (CONSAC) held at Coronation Hall of Kano State government house, Kano.

Rich Resources

The quote by the CNS was quite expedient given the rich resources the nation has been blessed with. According to the 2020 report from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria’s maritime environment is rich in hydrocarbon deposits with proven oil reserves of about 28.2 billion barrels representing 1.63 per cent of total global oil reserves and 165 trillion standard cubic feet (scf) natural gas reserves.

Essentially, the oil and gas sector accounts for about 10 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and petroleum exports revenue represents about 86 per cent of total exports revenue of the country as postulated by Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) this year.

Besides crude oil, other mineral resources such as manganese nodules, copper, natural gas, Diamonds, Bitumen, Copper, Uranium, Granit, Quartz, Lead, Fluorite, Marble, as well as fishery resources abound.

Territorial Integrity

In the scheme of things, especially when it comes to its maritime territorial Integrity, Nigeria claims a Territorial Sea of 12 nautical miles (nm) along its coastline of about 420 nm and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of up to 200 nm from the baseline. Additionally, Nigeria has filed claims for an extended continental shelf up to 350 nm.

Accordingly, this translates to about 5,040 square (sq) nm of sovereign territory, 84,000 sq nm of EEZ and about 147,000 sq nm of continental shelf, which is about one-third of Nigeria’s land mass.

All these borders the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) waters.
Lying across 19 coastal and island states, the GoG coastline, stretches from the waters off Senegal to the south of Angola, and is essentially an enviable treasure trove of rich resources as its waters covers 2.3 million square kilometers (888,000 square miles) and borders more than a dozen countries.

Comprising 26 countries grouped into two Regional Economic Communities (RECs) namely -Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS, 11 states with the return of Rwanda) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS; 15 states), it covers a surface area of 11,755,258 square kilometers, including a coastline of over 6000 kilometres from Senegal to Angola.

Trade Volume

Undoubtedly, Nigeria occupies strategic location in international seaborne trade along the Gulf of Guinea (GOG). Resource-wise, the GoG countries have an estimated 24 billion barrels of crude oil reserves, that is five per cent of global reserves at five million barrels of crude oil per day.

Also, the GoG is also the primary conduit of international trade and is central to the economy of the associated regions. It is increasingly looked upon today as resource provider and critical contributor to national growth and prosperity of the several nations lining its coasts and even those landward and with no shared boundaries.

On the average, Nigeria has an average of 5,000 vessel calls a year, which is approximately 70 per cent of the total cargo traffic to West and Central Africa combined. Furthermore, over 60 per cent of Nigeria’s external trade both in terms of volume and value are transported by sea as the region’s waterways serve as key navigational routes for international commerce, connecting countries as the hub of extensive trans-Atlantic trade.

Diverse Maritime Threats

Essentially, the safe passage of ship and goods is among the nation’s vital maritime interests. Thus, any threat to law and order in Nigeria’s maritime environment is a direct threat to the country’s economic well-being and by extension its national development.

But despite its rich throve of resources, the GoG waters face diverse maritime threats. It’s more alarming given that the maritime environment is one of the mainstays of the Nigerian economy.

It is a given that these diverse threats of insecurity has over the years been a considerable source of concern as the nation’s network of oil and gas installations as well as associated shipping have been threatened by maritime crimes such as piracy, sea robbery, Crude Oil Theft (COT), illegal oil bunkering, smuggling, Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, militancy and kidnapping for ransom.


Therefore, ‘Enhancing Maritime Security was the thrust of the recently held 2021 CONSAC. It is pertinent to state that the conference was preceded by a number of key activities like the career talks and medical rhapsody, various courtesy calls to the traditional ruler and the governor, then the CNS Lecture and Cocktail afterwards before the conference proper. Afterwards, it was ended by the gala night, the golf kitty and guided tour of the town.

Over the course of the two-day period, there were five presentations and they include- Improving National Maritime Domain Awareness through Inter-Agency Cooperation: Models, Policy Options and Strategies; and Nigerian Navy Fleet Maintenance Culture: An Appraisal of Naval Engineering Commitment and System Ownership;

Others include Harnessing Nigeria’s Ship-Building Capability for Improved Maritime Security and National Prosperity; Enhancing Collaboration amongst Maritime Stakeholders for Improved Maritime Security in Nigeria; and Girl Child Education: A Strategy for Enhanced Gender Equality in the Nigerian Security Sector.

The conference commenced with the opening remarks presented by the Chief of Policy and Plans (CPPLANS), Rear Admiral Christian Ezekobe, followed by a welcome address from the CNS. The keynote address was delivered by the Governor of Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, which set the stage for the first presentation of the day made by Cdre SD Atakpa and entitled, “Nigeria’s Blue Economy Potentials for Sustainable Development: The Role of the NN”. The panel session was elegantly anchored by Rear Admiral Ajani (Rtd).

In attendance, both physically and virtually, were several dignitaries including Emirs and Royal Fathers from the Kano Emirates, former Chiefs of the Naval Staff, some members of the diplomatic community, Senators, Federal and State Representatives, Heads of government agencies, captains of industry, members of the public and the press. Overall, the conference had more than 500 registered delegates and over 3,000 live viewers via different online portals, the largest audience for any event of this nature in the NN.

Setting the tone for discussions, Governor Ganduje urged delegates to take ownership of the conference so that it would yield implementable strategies to enhance Nigeria’s maritime security synergy for sustainable socio-economic development.

Similarly, Defence Minister, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd), acknowledged the challenges the navy was facing as a result of inadequate equipment, assuring that the government was working hard to addressed the issue.

He said: “It is important to mention that notwithstanding the deficiencies in equipment holding, as a service you have diligently discharged your constitutional mandates. To this end, the current administration has demonstrated great commitment to addressing the challenges of the Nigerian Navy as testified in
recent fleet acquisitions.

“The federal government is working assiduously to ensure that your past operational challenges regarding insufficient equipment and manpower become a thing of the past, soonest,” he said.

The minister appreciated the untiring efforts of the Nigerian Navy which has seen to the reduction of crude oil theft, violent crimes and other illegalities in the nation’s maritime domain, just as he applauded the service’s initiative in inviting stakeholders to be part of the annual deliberations aimed at consolidating on the country’s common maritime security.

Maritime Governance Architecture

Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, who presented the paper titled “Enhancing Collaboration Amongst
Maritime Stakeholders for Improved
Maritime Security in Nigeria,” advocated for a robust maritime governance architecture in the areas of ships/boats building, fleet ownership and expansion, indigenous cargo affreightment, offshore/floating facilities spareparts and maintenance, freshwater bunkering and supply, bunker oils supply, aquaculture, fauna and flora, channel dredging, inland waterways and

Jamoh Iisted governance, infrastructure and maritime security as the enabling triangle for the realisation of safety and security for national development, just as he highlighted the negative consequences of maritime crimes on national growth and development, just as he emphasised the need to plug leakages.

Role of the Nigerian Navy

Who better to understand these threats and the danger they portend to the economies of the nation than the Nigerian Navy. In its role, the NN continuously seeks to emplace measures to optimise the nexus of domain awareness, capacity and partnership to ensure maritime safety and security.

According to Vice Admiral Gambo, the strategic relevance of the nation’s maritime environment and the role it plays in national development and prosperity of the nation has been proven over the years.

Presenting his lecture at Bayero University, Kano (BUK) the CNS, who addressed the “Roles and Activities of the Nigerian Navy Towards National Development”, noted that “the environment is however prone to diverse contemporary threats which portend dangers to the nation’s wellbeing and security if not curbed. Hence, the NN has made efforts to counter these threats through the maintenance of credible and effective presence within our maritime area to ensure a secured and conducive domain for enhanced national development.

“It is worthy to note that despite a harsh fiscal environment, the federal government has remained committed to enhancing the response capability of the NN through the acquisition of more patrol vessels and aircraft. The NN is proactive towards guaranteeing that the nation’s maritime environment is safe and open to legitimate activities through the emplacement of appropriate strategies.

“This resolve is anchored on the fact that the nation’s maritime domain will continue to be of strategic importance due to its inherent resources and use for global trading activities,” he added.

Noting that the service has ensured sustained patrols to curb maritime crimes and criminality, he said this year alone, the navy has recorded over 15,000 hours at sea, compared to the 27,758 hours recorded throughout last year.

“These initiatives have engendered several recorded successes in anti-piracy operations of the NN, For instance, from a high of 89 pirate attacks recorded in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) and 70 in Nigerian waters for 2016, the GoG in 2020 witnessed 44 cases with 22 in Nigerian waters.

“Furthermore, from January to August 2021, there were 10 pirate attacks in the GoG with only five within Nigeria’s waters. It is instructive to note that most of the attempted attacks in Nigerian waters were unsuccessful owing to the prompt response by NN ships on patrol using a robust Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) infrastructure.

“These patrol efforts coupled with maintenance of credible presence at sea has contributed to boosting shippers’ confidence and making our sea safer. Accordingly, on 14 Jul 2021, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) global piracy report indicates the lowest total of piracy attacks and robbery against ships in 27 years,” he said.

Through the NN’s Operation CALM WATERS and the government joint operation, SWIFT RESPONSE, Gambo said anti-smuggling efforts were intensified such that 79,817 bags of smuggled foreign rice equivalent to about N1.6b have been seized since 2015.

“For instance, in 2019, the NN arrested 24,935 bags of smuggled foreign rice and 25,601 bags in 2020. However, from January to July 2021, the NN has so far arrested 2,137 bags of smuggled foreign rice only. This brings the total number of foreign bags of rice arrested since 2015 to 79,817 bags which is equivalent to about 1.6 billion. Within the same period, 152 tankers/trucks and 405 vehicles involved in smuggling activities were also impounded.

“NN has been involved in the fight against Crude Oil Theft (COT) and illegal oil bunkering through operations conducted by its operations bases. The NN’s increased presence at sea and activation of Choke Point Management and Control Operations are yielding some results in countering the incidences of crude theft.

“For instance, from 2015 to July 2021, the NN has arrested 4,280 suspects with 439 arrested between January and July 2021 alone. A total of 165 illegal refining sites were destroyed during Anti-COT/illegal bunkering operations.

“In summary, the quantity of crude oil recovered from illegal refineries and illegal bunkerers in 2020/2021 is about three million barrels, including about 572,331 litres of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO), 34, 260 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and 3,599,551 litres of Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) all illegally refined with a total value of about N87.5 billion.”


After each presentation, various panel and interactive sessions provided analytical inputs and sound contributions from the distinguished panellists and audience respectively. Also, suggestions and recommendations were made, many of them critical enough to warrant additional reflexions.

At the end, the resolutions reached were that while legislative initiatives by the National Assembly are desirable to bolster the development of the Blue Economy in the medium-to-long term, efforts are to be re-doubled by the NN to facilitate cross-sectoral policy initiatives to galvanise due action on the triad Blue Economy pillars of livelihood, national economic development and sustainable exploration and exploitation of the marine environment.

They also agreed that the Total Spectrum Maritime Strategy is to be recalibrated to incorporate the imperatives of the Blue Environment; the NN will exercise all possible initiatives in maintaining its lead role in facilitating and promoting the Blue Economy to be duly recognized by maritime stakeholders in order to put potential conflicts over responsibility and jurisdiction at bay in legislative, policy, coordination and resource allocation;

The infrastructural upgrades and development of FOBs towards having functional jetties and logistics support facilities is also to include the various necessary infrastructures to operate helicopters; the NN is to emplace measures to optimise the nexus of domain awareness, capacity and partnership to ensure maritime safety and security; NN will explore all feasible options to improve terrain awareness of the backwaters;

NN is to engage relevant stakeholders having MDA capabilities with a view to integrating MDA facilities under one coordinating umbrella led by the service; NN is to engage relevant agencies to activate their respective desks under the FALCON EYE; given the experiences of the past in terms of effective implementation of fleet maintenance concept, HQ LOG will make a model of this practice by using NNS LANA as a case study;

NHQ is to immediately setup a committee to articulate requirements for the upgrade of NNEC Sapele in the areas of infrastructure, syllabus, training aids, staffing and courses to be offered;
given the enormity of naval engineering planning, execution and monitoring, NHQ is to consider a mix of appointment into the offices of FOC and CSO Logistics Command between the engineers and Executive/Logistics officers in the future;

To improve the capacity of the NEB officers, NHQ is to consider adding two more courses in his career path with focus on type-training and engineering management; the NN will make deliberate efforts to encourage reverse engineering in the production of critical spare parts; and NHQ is to consider convening an engineering conference to address specifically the myriad challenges and constraints impeding best engineering practices in the NN

At the end of the conference, the need to foster stakeholders’ collaboration for improved maritime security and national prosperity became more imperative.

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