Strengthening Nigeria – European Union Cooperation on Maritime Security


To enhance intensified presence at sea,  Nigeria, the EU and Member States recently held a joint high profile exercise in Lagos to further deepen relations as well as ensure freedom of navigation, safety of seafarers, protection of regional resources and coastal communities, Chiemelie Ezeobi reports 

To strengthen the maritime security cooperation between Nigeria and the  European Union, a first ever high profile joint event was recently held at the Western Naval Command (WNC) in Apapa, Lagos.
This was against the backdrop of port calls from the naval vessel of the Italian IT RIZZO and the Spanish ES SERVIOLA. Jointly organised by the Nigerian Navy (NN), the EU Delegation to Nigeria and EU Member States operating under the EU Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP) initiative, and it seemingly solidified the close partnership that has developed between the Nigerian Navy, the European Union and EU Member States operating in the region. 

Although the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo was  represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans, Naval Headquarters, Rear Admiral Saidu Garba; others present were the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Yakubu Wambai; the EU Senior Coordinator for the Gulf of Guinea, Mr. Nicolas Berlanga; the EU Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms. Samuela Isopi; the Italian Ambassador for Maritime Security, Mr. Daniele Bosio; the Italian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Stefano De Leo; and the Spanish Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Juan SELL.
Others include the French Maritime Security Coordinator, Mr. Ludovic Poitou; the Consul General, Ms. Laurence Montmayrant as the representative of France; the Greek Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Ioannis Plotas; the Belgian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Daniel Bertrand; as well as senior officers and diplomats from the Nigerian Navy, EU, France, Italy and Spain. 

According to the partnership, over the years, relations have deepened between the partners through enhanced operational cooperation, joint exercises and trainings, capacity development as well as increased information sharing and exchange as all sides have recognised that the incidence of maritime crimes, particularly piracy and armed robbery at sea, has reduced across the region according to International Maritime Bureau Report of February 2022. 

They noted that an intensified presence at sea and the collaborative efforts by Nigeria, the EU and Member States played their part in achieving this success, adding that however, the parties also acknowledged the need to further deepen relations by continued cooperating and with an aim to keep ensuring freedom of navigation, safety of seafarers, protection of regional resources and coastal communities.

In a joint release after the exercise, they said: “To this end, Nigeria has taken a leading role in regional coordination through the MCF-GOG SHADE de-confliction group and the Nigerian Navy has continuously developed its capacities to secure the open seas, including through the acquisition of new platforms and through the Falcon Eye surveillance system.
” The EU has actively been engaging with the Nigerian Navy through the CMP-mechanisms as well as through regional initiatives such as the YARIS information-sharing platform and with the assistance of the SWAIMS project. 

“All sides will continue deepening their relations and reiterate their full commitment to maintaining their constructive dialogue and cooperation based on the principles of mutual respect.
In his speech, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Gambo said the event came at a time the nation is committed to the sustainable development of her blue economy, adding that “a secured maritime environment is a contributing factor to the economic prosperity of nations the world over. 

“The struggle against maritime insecurity is a collaborative effort that no single country or region can tackle alone. For this reason, ECOWAS in conjunction with the Economic Community of Central African States formulated the Yaoundé Code of Conduct as a foundation for broad based regional maritime security along the entire Gulf of Guinea.

 ” But the security partnership goes beyond Africa, embracing the European Union and other key international players geographically outside the Gulf of Guinea because the Gulf of Guinea is of global importance as a crucial maritime route. 
“Therefore, effort to continue to secure the maritime space, especially the Gulf of Guinea is crucial to the Regional Navies and international players. 
“The Gulf of Guinea itself is a vast and diverse region stretching from Senegal to Angola covering approximately 2,874nm of coastline. It is an important shipping zone transporting oil and gas as well as goods to and from Africa and the rest of the world. On any one day, there are about 1500 tankers, cargo ships and fishing vessels navigating its waters.

 “Regrettably, piracy, armed robbery at sea, kidnapping of seafarers, illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, smuggling, trafficking and transnational organized crimes pose a major threat to maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
” Maritime insecurity has long been one of the most persistent and intractable threats to maritime communities and economic prosperity in West Africa. Importantly, concerted efforts in form of synergy should be maintained to curb these maritime crimes”.

However, he stressed that the commitment of the Nigerian Navy towards maritime security has yielded dividends, adding that “a lot has been achieved by the Nigerian Navy in the safeguard of the Gulf of Guinea. 
“Notable among them is the arrest of 10 pirates whose jail terms were secured for hijacking a Chinese fishing vessel, FV HAI LU FENG II off Cote D’Ivoire inMay 2020. The crime committed violated Section 3 of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act 2019, punishable under Section 2 of the same Act. 
“Nigeria has continued to record successes in the anti-piracy war as activities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea have reached an all-time low in more than a decade. Following the significant success occasioned by the Nigerian Navy’s increased maritime security operations against maritime criminalities in collaboration with other agencies, the International Maritime Bureau has exited Nigeria from its Piracy List. 

“Nigeria has collaborated with other Gulf of Guinea navies to address the maritime security situation in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria has a robust and professional navy with historic tradition. The Nigerian Navy has continuously acquired new assets and has further improved its capabilities to maintain a large fleet and to operate far beyond its territorial waters. 
“The state of the art Maritime Domain Awareness facilities comprising; the Falcon Eye and the Regional Maritime Awareness Capability Centres allow the Nigerian Navy to monitor its territorial waters and beyond. 
 ” It is on this note that I welcome the ships’ company of Italian Navy Ship RIZZO and the Spanish Navy Ship SERVIOLA as well as the Italian and Spanish governments for the participatory approach in conducting maritime exercises with regional navies in the Gulf of Guinea in order to mitigate maritime crimes. 

“The two naval ships are currently on port call to Lagos to run ashore as well as for replenishment of required logistics for further operations and voyage. I must reiterate that this is among series of port calls on Nigeria by international navies. 
“I must also, applaud the Federal Government of Nigeria’s commitment and decisive initiative on the Deep Blue Project through which the Nigerian Armed Forces, the Nigeria Police and intelligence services are poised to tackle the menace of maritime insecurity in the waterways.

 ” At this juncture, I commend the European Union (EU) for your fundamental support and partnership in operationalising the Yaoundé Code of Conduct through diverse programmes and initiatives towards capacity development in the Gulf of Guinea. 
“We have engaged with you in notable programmes such as the support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security (SWAIMS) which only this week donated 30 Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boats to 12 West African coastal states. 

“Others include the support programme for the Maritime Safety and Security Strategy in Central Africa (PASSMAR) and the West and Central Africa Port Security (WECAPS); all these programmes have contributed to positive outcomes in maritime security with meaningful impact on ocean governance in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria has also actively partnered with the EU and other African countries in the optimisation of the Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Forum – Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) as well as Yaoundé Architecture Regional Information System (YARIS) where already some Nigerian Navy personnel are undergoing training on the system.

‘ Nigerian Navy and indeed Nigeria appreciates the EU Coordinated Maritime Presence which compliments other maritime security programmes and projects in the Gulf of Guinea. In this regards, the Nigerian Navy calls for enhanced collaboration with EU and coastal states within the framework of the Yaoundé Architecture on information sharing in order to bridge the apparent existing communication gap.
“…You can count on the Nigerian Navy’s willingness to always collaborate with international partners on efforts to curb maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.”

Earlier in his welcome address, the FOC WNC, Rear Admiral Wambai reiterated that the aim of the partnership was to further deepen the ties between Nigeria and European Union in the maritime domain, ultimately leading to a stronger strategic partnership in this field. 
“As you are all aware, the sea remains the most veritable means of transportation that nations, individuals and groups have exploited to prosper and become relevant. Pertinently, it is to be noted that a key requirement for use of this great common is the safety of the sea during traverse. 

“Therefore, the Nigeria-European Union collaborative effort on maritime security is germane. Working together is a sine qua non in the zeal to defend the seas by enhanced maritime security and safety needed to promote international trade, protect the environment and guarantee use of the Sea for legitimate businesses.
“Also, worthy of mention is the cordial relationship between Nigeria and the European Union that led to the deployment of Italian Navy Ship RIZZO and Spanish Navy Ship SERVIOLA on maritime security patrol mission in the Gulf of Guinea. 

“It is hoped that the continued collaboration would improve operational coordination and information sharing as well as joint training and capacity building exercises that is desired to enhance maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.”

Quote“The parties also acknowledged the need to further deepen relations by continued cooperating and with an aim to keep ensuring freedom of navigation, safety of seafarers, protection of regional resources and coastal communities”

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