The G7 Friends of the Gulf of Guinea Group (G7++FOGG), monday met in Nigeria to join forces with regional stakeholders to tackle the issues of maritime illegalities bedevilling the region.
Led by Italy, the G7++ harped on maritime crimes such as drug and human trafficking, illegal fishing and indiscriminate pollution in the Gulf of Guinea (GOG).
According to the group, the GOG, with its over 6000 nautical miles which stretches from Senegal in the North to Angola in the South covering 20 coastal states, is vital to the economy of nations.
The highly attended meeting, which was hosted by the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ete-Ibas of the Nigerian Navy, focused on the fight against piracy, illicit trafficking of narcotics, weapons, human beings and goods, illegal fishing and marine litter, as well as the development of the maritime economy as a whole.
The Lagos meeting is coming at the heels of the one held in Rome where more than 120 participants from over 40 Countries, regional organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations and companies met to discuss the security conditions of navigating in the GOG, where ships are often attacked by pirates.
The G7++ comprises of Germany, Canada, the United States, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Brazil (observer), South Korea, Denmark, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and the European Union.
According to the G7++ president, Mr. Daniele Bosio, the important proof of the ever-increasing involvement of the African partners in building the region’s maritime security influenced the decision to hold the second annual meeting in Lagos.
He said, “Recognising the challenges in the maritime domain and the need to surmount them, we all accept the fact that we share common interests in making the GoG an open maritime and sea line of communication protected from piracy and other related offences, and safe from illegal trafficking of people, drugs and arms.
“In the last few years, fundamental steps have been undertaken with the approval of the London code of conduct in the state of the GoG, which is a key instrument.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Defence Mansur Dan-Ali, who was the special guest of honour, decried the recent increase of criminality in the GOG region.
He said, “In recent years, the Gulf of Guinea region experienced increase in the rate of criminality which are mostly in the Nigerian waters, include kidnapping, piracy/sea robbery, illegal unregulated and unreported fishing, smuggling, human and drug trafficking, illegal bunkering and crude oil theft among others.
“Unfortunately, factors that fuel the acts are centered on the socio-economic issues in the Niger Delta region coupled with the activities of external collaborators who derive pecuniary benefits from internationally organized crimes.
“To change the narrative of insecurity and criminality in the Nigeria waters, the Nigerian Government adopted the hard and soft power approach including bilateral and multi-lateral collaborations with organizations and countries within and outside the region.
“The hard power approach is spearheaded by the Nigerian Navy in conjunction with other maritime security stakeholders such as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency.
“Meanwhile, an Anti-piracy Bill is being legislated on at the National Assembly. To further boost employment and curb crude oil theft, the Federal government is in the process of establishing modular refineries in the region.
“It is gratifying however to state that the various measures adopted to stem the rising tide of criminality in the Gulf of Guinea have yielded positive results.”
Guests at the conference include the navy Chief of Training and Operations, Rear Admiral Ferguson Bobai; the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Slyvanus Abbah; Commander NNS Beecroft, Rear Admiral Maurice Eno and NNPC Information and Investigation Manager, Mr. Best Dulagha.
Also in attendance were delegates from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Ministry of Defence (MOD), ENI, International Criminal Court (ICC), Economic Organisation of West African States (ECOWAS), International Police (INTERPOL), African and European Unions.
Some of the G7 countries in attendance include Denmark, Germany, Japan, France, USA, Norway, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands and United Kingdom.
Other African countries in attendance Ivory Coast, Benin Republic, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Republic of Guinea,
Togo, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Liberia.