Private Maritime Security Companies and Implications for Nigeria’s National Security



Nations all over the world seek to preserve and promote their national interests and core values. In order to maintain a secured environment for national development and prosperity to thrive, most nations adopt a national security policy that is robust and comprehensive. Every nation has the primary role of preserving her sovereignty, territorial integrity and corporate existence along with these assets which enable them guarantee the socioeconomic wellbeing of citizens. In some cases, parts of these vital assets are located at sea. The sea is the greatest national endowment to mankind.

According to (BM Idris 2015), citing Kolawole, the sea and the sea bed are richer in mineral, hydro carbonates and food resources than all continents put together.
It is estimated that these resources generate about 500 trillion naira annually for littoral states like Nigeria (Sani, 2014). However, this economic value of the sea has made it an attractive fit for criminal activities such as sea piracy, poaching of fishing resources, illegal bunkering, crude oil theft, drugs and human trafficking.

These criminal activities have had significant impacts on the socioeconomic development of littoral states and their national security. The focus of national security is the totality of issues that build into survival and growth of a nation. Hence, there’s the need to protect the maritime resources as a national security objective in all littoral states.
Nigeria’s geostrategic location in the Gulf of Guinea and the fact that there is an increased international interest in the crude oil deposit in the Gulf of Guinea had led to high traffic in supply and increased oil prospecting and producing activities in Nigeria.
Nigeria has a coastline of about 420NM and an EEZ extending 200NM seaward area equal to one third of its landmass of 923,768KM². (BM Idris, 2015), citing Berneth. Nigeria’s vast maritime area is rich in living and non-living resources such as fish, shrimp, prawn, manganese nodules, nickel and cobalt as well as crude oil and gas.

The constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, the armed forces act Cap A20 laws of the federal republic of Nigeria 2004 and the national defense policy charged the Nigerian Navy with the maritime defense of Nigeria.

They also charged the Nigerian Navy with the protection of the nation’s offshore resources in order to enhance national security (Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution, 1999). The armed forces act particularly charged the Nigerian Navy with the responsibility of security and protection of vital economic resources within Nigeria’s maritime domain as well as enforcing customs, focal immigration, fishing, anti-legal bunkering and safety laws (Armed Forces Act, 2004).

The Nigerian Navy is therefore the main organ of the federal government of Nigeria statutorily charged with the responsibility of protecting Nigeria’s maritime environment against threats (Jibrin, 2015). The Nigerian Navy has been faced by many constraints while trying to maintain maritime security ranging from youth restiveness in the Niger Delta region, illegal bunkering, piracy, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, attack on oil installations and insurgency which has led to the emergence of the private maritime security companies in an effort to contain the escalation on maritime security threats in Nigeria’s maritime domain.

Some PMSCs are directly engaged by the oil companies without recourse to the NN which is against the regulations and adversely affects Nigeria’s national security (NHQ, 2012). The idea of a PMSC controlling the entire maritime domain is a compromise of Nigeria’s national security and would worsen the instability within the maritime domain.

However, the perspective of involving PMSC in maritime security appears to have been misunderstood and misapplied in Nigeria (BM Idris, 2015). Perhaps, Nigeria is the only country in the world where the surveillance, enforcement and security of her entire maritime domain is in the hands of private individual. This article is borne out of the need to constructively analyze PMSCs in maritime security and implications for Nigeria’s national security.

Private maritime security companies

Private maritime security companies (PMSC) are companies that provides private security officers and guards for the protection of lives and properties. They are non-military, non-police professionals hired by individuals or organizations to protect lives and properties against theft, vandalism, fire and illegal activities.

Isernberg (2012), indicated that as a result of the increase in attacks in 2008 and the failure in the efforts by the international community to combat piracy, PMSC were hired by ship owners and charterers to provide armed guards to protect vessels and to reduce risk.

BM Idris (2015) citing Sule, reiterated that communal disturbances in the Niger Delta have compelled the oil companies operating in the region to embark on elaborate arrangements for their security. Apart from engaging PSCs, some companies have in the past financed the purchase of weapons and efficiency got the supernumerary (spy) police in its various installations. This allows the companies to have greater control over the services being provided.

He indicated that the primary reason for the proliferation of PSCs was for profit making, notwithstanding their role in complementing the effort of the public sector. Sule however failed to identify the implications of these PMSCs for Nigeria’s national security. This article identifies the implications of involving PMSCs in maritime security in a brief and explicit manner.
Impact of maritime security on national security
BM Idris (2015) citing Banomyong, noted that over the years, maritime security remains critical to the national security of states that are interested in conducting international trade.

He further indicated that the sea is the primary mode of transportation for world trade, carrying over 80% of world trade by volume. This inherently makes the security of the maritime domain critically important to the prosperity and liberty of billions of people.

According to Gilpin (2007), maritime security is important to the national security of any nation. This importance is tied to the quest by many nations to protect their maritime domains against identified national security challenges by combatting smuggling, poaching and piracy. These illegal activities are in most cases carried out by young people who have been deprived and who are bent on making ends meet at all cost. Thus, impacting negatively on national security.

Ndoo (2009), also observed that the absence of effective maritime security have resultant effects on national security. His position is anchored on how pirates and other criminal elements carry out their activities as a result of the failure of states to effectively police their maritime space. He suggested that in order to solve the problem, there is need for interstate cooperation between countries having maritime challenges in order to avert the “Somalia syndrome”. However, he did not address the issue of PMSCs as it relates to its impacts on Nigeria’s national security. Thus this article seeks to bring into focus, the implications of PMSCs for Nigeria’s national security.

Private maritime security companies and Nigeria’s national security

BM Idris, 2015, citing Rogers, opined that with limited or lack of effective naval presence in the West African waters, private security companies presence in the Nigerian waters have made progress in terms of pushing for a greater share of protection services for oil infrastructure and policing of shipping lanes in the region. Idris, further stated that though the presence of PMSCs have raised a lot of legitimacy and regulatory questions, there is at the same time the controversy on whether or not to engage PMSCs in addressing maritime security challenges. Bateman (2013), pointed out that the privatization of Nigerian maritime surveillance and enforcement to a private security company is not the solution to maritime and port insecurity. Rather, the government needs to undertake expansion and modernization of its maritime agencies.

Ottaway and Mair (2013), posited that expectedly, the private security company will not be able to withstand the exigency of maritime security thereby making the domain to become the center for trade of illicit drugs and arms, safe-heavens for terrorist organization and breeding grounds for bio-terrorism activities, thereby resulting into national insecurity. It has a negative impact for Nigeria’s national security. Patrick (2013), thus advised that the Nigerian government needs to learn from the experiences of countries like Australia, United States of America, Malaysia, amongst others, that are more bounded with seas and whose maritime domain is higher.

The Nigerian government must also avert seeing security and surveillance in ports and the maritime domain as a way of compensating political cronies as this will spell doom for the entire country, because it is a matter of national security that must not be compromised.

From the reviewed literature, it has been established that privatization as a policy, might be good enough for developed nations but the concession of the entire maritime domain to the control and monitoring of a private security company poses danger and it is a compromise of state sovereignty and national security. It also indicated that the Nigerian situation is informed as a way of satisfying political cohorts because it has not been done in the interest of the public.

It also indicated that privatization does not always lead to cost savings or better services and PMSCs are profit oriented.

Lastly, the literature review established that the privatization of Nigerian maritime domain has been known as ill-intentioned and has negative impact on the sovereignty of Nigeria.
Maritime threats and the participation of private maritime security companies in Nigeria’s maritime environment
The size and complexity of Nigeria’s maritime domain, coupled with the availability of vast resources of economic importance, makes it vulnerable to illegal exploitation and constitute serious challenges for adequate monitoring and protection, Isaac (2012).

Nigeria’s maritime environment is endowed with abundant living and non-living resources. According to BM Idris (2015) citing Umosen, Nigeria relies on her internal waters, territorial waters and exclusive economic zones for resource exploitation, commerce and transit which qualify the area as a center of gravity for her national survival. From the forgoing, due to the presence of resources and other activities in the maritime domain as an area of national interest, it is imperative to protect the maritime domain from threat and vulnerability.

Hence, the involvement of PMSCs in the Nigeria’s maritime environment. The rest part of this article will briefly examine the maritime security threats in the Nigerian maritime environment and the implications of PMSCs to Nigeria’s national security.

Maritime security threats in Nigeria’s maritime environment

The security threats in Nigeria maritime environment include piracy, sea robbery, and maritime terrorism, drug trafficking, youth restiveness and Illegal Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing, Idris (2015). Others are crude oil theft, proliferation of small arms and light weapons and other environmental threats such as oil spill, pollution and dumping of toxic wastes with attendant environmental degradation.

1. Piracy and sea robbery
; the cases of piracy and sea robbery in Nigeria have been predominantly perpetrated in the Niger Delta region. The trend of attacks in Nigeria’s maritime domain has taken a violent turn as pirates are now armed with sophisticated weapons like AK-47 assault rifles, Idris (2015). Recent attacks has also jeopardized global commerce flowing into the Gulf of Guinea. Particularly the Niger Delta region has led to the classification of the region as a high risk area for shipping. This has borne out the need for various governments to strengthen regional integrated cooperation through joint exercise and information sharing in order to enhance maritime security.

2. Maritime terrorism;
the Maritime Terrorism Research Centre (2013), adopted the definition of maritime terrorism proffered by Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP) working group, thus:
“The undertaking of terrorist acts and activities within the maritime environment, using it against vessels or fixed platforms at sea or in port, or against any one of their passengers or personnel, against costal facilities or settlements, including tourist resorts, port areas and port towns or cities.”
In April 2013, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) threatened to carry out attacks against oil facilities in Nigeria in response to the sentencing of the leader of the group Henry Okah, by a South African court (VOA News, 2013). Other events of maritime terrorism has also taken place in the Nigerian maritime domain and as such credible deterrent force to counter these threats. This cannot be performed by PMSCs in Nigeria’s maritime environment. Hence, the need to strengthen the NN and other security agencies effectively.

3. Youth restiveness;
armed youth violence has continued to disrupt the oil and gas industry of Nigeria and poses security challenge to the country’s maritime domain. Deprivations and marginalization have transformed youths from merely engaging in community protests to militancy with deleterious consequences threatening the security of Nigeria (Oluwaniyi, 2010). These have over the years resulted in attacks on oil installations and hostage-taking, especially in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. Snapps and Hamilton, 2011). Youth restiveness is also responsible for other crimes such as kidnapping, attack on fishing trawlers, highjacks of vessels and seizure of platforms. PMSCs are not professionally capable of quelling youth restiveness. Thus, the Joint Task Forces needs to be strengthened.

4. Maritime pollution;

the ecological balance of Nigeria’s maritime domain has been greatly undermined by massive marine pollution resulting from pipeline vandalism, sludge discharge from ships, toxic waste dumping, oil spillage and gas flaring among others (UNEP,2013). These have resulted in massive pollution and damage to the marine ecosystem especially in the Niger Delta. Pollution has led to loss of farmlands, fishery sites, and fresh water resources as witnessed in Ogoni land. This has forced many people into desperate measured to earn a livelihood, and is one of the factors that led to the unrests in the Niger Delta area, (Akpan, 2014).

5. Smuggling; Nigeria has continued to witness massive smuggling of goods and services through her maritime environment. This criminal activity has persisted due to the lack security measures at the ports and inadequate awareness of activities of ship/boats in the maritime domain.

Smuggling has grave consequences on the economy and security of the nation (Idris, 2015). Furthermore, the country has witnessed alarming increase in smuggling of SALWs. In 2012, the Nigerian Navy arrested 15 Russians in Lagos for unlawful importation of arms into Nigeria (PM News, 2013). Consequently, all these illegal activities led to the evolution of PMSCs in Nigeria’s maritime environment.

Implications of private maritime security companies on Nigeria’s national security

According to (BM Idris, 2015), some of the implications of PMSCs on Nigeria’s national security are highlighted as:
1. Rise in maritime crimes
2. Threat to commerce and shipping
3. Indication of weak state
4. Threat to territorial integrity
5. Eroding the confidence in government and its institutions.
Evidently, PMSCs have not addressed the general need for maritime security. The vital sectors of the maritime environment still remained unprotected and the PMSCs are gaining undue insight into the security architecture which can be used to subvert the nation by disgruntled private interests (Idris, 2015). Conclusively, the challenges bedeviling the NN are quite enormous; but they are not unsurmountable with the right policy framework and feasible implementation strategies. The way forward is highlighted as the recommendations and implementation strategies.


Nigeria’s maritime domain is endowed with abundant living and non-living resources which contributes significantly to national economy and generation of foreign exchange earnings.
Nigeria’s maritime domain is daunted with enormous security threats. Some of the threats include maritime terrorism, illegal oil bunkering and crude oil theft, drug trafficking, piracy and sea robbery, youth restiveness, illegal fishery, pipeline vandalism, marine pollution, smuggling and trans-border crimes. Regrettably, theses threat in the maritime environment constitute serious challenges and have negative implications for Nigeria’s national security.

The NN is the lead security agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria charged with the responsibility of protecting Nigeria’s Maritime Environment against threats, an is bedeviled with enormous constraints which have impeded its operational effectiveness to carry out its constitutional responsibilities.

The private sector participation in Nigeria’s maritime security is found to be largely extralegal and not bound to be protected by the International Laws of War or typical rules of engagement.

As such it is important to strengthen the NN with the provision of effective weapons and additional trainings on maritime security while reviewing the important policies militating their operations.


1. The ministry of defense should develop and integrate a national Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) system covering the entire coast line in Nigeria and integrating all the MCS of the maritime security agencies.

2. The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) should formulate a national maritime policy for Nigeria.

3. The Federal Ministries of Transport and Defense should coordinate the installation of cameras and other surveillance equipment along Nigeria’s coastline.

4. Federal ministry of transport should initiate a bill on private maritime security companies’ operations act.

5. The Federal Government of Nigeria should review the act setting up NIMASA with a view to review the surveillance and enforcement of maritime security aspects of the provisions of the act.


Akinwale, J.O. (2015) “Private Sector Participation in Maritime Security”, (Telephone Interview conducted by BM Idris [2015] with Chief of Naval Plans N/HQ on 1st April).

Akpan, F.D. (2014) “Maritime Domain Awareness as a Vehicle for Effective Naval Operations”, International Journal of Constructive Engagement, 1(2): 45-59.
Armed Forces Act (2004) “CAP A20 Part 1, Sub-Section 4, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria”.

Gilpin, R. (2007) “Enhancing Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea”, (Centre for Contemporary Conflict), Retrieved 8/6/2020.

Idris B.M. (2015) “Private Maritime Security Companies and Implications for Nigeria’s National Security”
Isernberg, D. (2012) “The Rise of Private Maritime Security Companies”,, Retrieved 8/6/2020.

Ndoo, R.G. (2009) “H piraterie Maritime: Versunesomalisation Des Côtes Camerounaises”,, Retrieved 8/6/2020.

NHQ, (2012) “Report of the Committee to Formulate Modalities for the Operation of Private Maritime Security Companies and Boats in Nigerian Waters”,, Retrieved 8/6/2020.

Ottaway, M. and Mair, S. (2013) “State at Risk and Failed Steps: Putting Security First”, (In Policy Outlook, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Democracy and Rule of Law Project).

Rogers A.P.V. (2009) direct participation in hostilities: some personal reflections, Cambridge: University Press.

Snapps O.J. and Hamilton, D.I. (2011) “Youth Restiveness and Industrial Disruption in the Niger Delta”, Journal of American Review of Political Economy, 9(1): 23-27.

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As Ammended).
Umosen, S.U. (2007) “NN Operations in the Nigerian Maritime Environment” (Paper Presented at the Chief of Naval Staff Conference (CONSAC) Sokoto).

VOA News (2013), “Nigeria Condemns New MEND Threat”, http//, Retrieved 8/6/2020.

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