The European Union (EU) has given an indication that foreign navies would continue to occupy the Gulf of Guinea in order to continue to provide security, not minding the efforts put in place by Nigeria through the Deep Blue Project, a maritime security programme launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in June 2021.
With the launching of the Deep Blue Project in June 2021, Nigeria has recorded a reduction in the number of piracy incidents, even as it continues to prosecute offenders with its Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act (SPOMO)
Notwithstanding, an EU mission using Danish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish warships is to patrol West African waters in coming years to stem pirate attacks.
Accordingly, the EU external action service has proposed to EU member states, in a memo, that France, Italy, and Spain should lead the onslaught by sending ships for eight months each in 2022 to the Gulf of Guinea.
The Gulf of Guinea in West Africa “continues to be particularly dangerous for seafarers”, the memo, dated 12 January 2022, noted.
“The region now accounts for just over 95 per cent of all kidnappings for ransom at sea,” it said.
“The risk of PAG (pirate action group)] actions remain high … from Togo to Gabon, with Nigeria as the centre of gravity,” the EU added.
Danish, French, Italian, Portuguese ships have already been doing “exercises” under a “pilot” EU project called the Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP) Concept in the region since January 2021.
And the foreign service proposed extending the CMP until 2024.
It wanted to put down legal roots, by exploring “handover agreements”
with the 20 or so Gulf of Guinea-region nations.
“If the national appropriate legal framework is in place, pirates will be transferred to the concerned MS [member states] and then prosecuted,” the EU memo suggested.
The EU was building an intelligence-sharing platform linking “more than 300 EU and [Gulf of Guinea]-national authorities with responsibilities in maritime surveillance”.
And Europe wanted to win hearts and minds, including among the “general public”.
EU diplomats were to launch a “strategic communication” campaign, with special events, involving CMP “naval visits” at “ports of call, such as Lagos in Nigeria”.
The EU pilot-mission aside, other Danish, French, Italian, Spanish, and US warships have also done independent patrols in the Gulf of Guinea in recent times.
The oil-rich 2.35 million km2 region, where millions of people lived on less than $1 a day, has become known as “pirate alley”, the Reuters news agency recently reported.
Hostages, hundreds of whom were seized in recent years, were ransomed for up to $300,000, it said.