Ms Hannah Serwa Tetteh, Minister of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday expressed concern about the threats to the maritime and shipping industry in the Gulf of Guinea over the last five years.
She said: “progressively there is a growing concern about the threats posed by piracy, armed robbery at sea, narcotics trafficking and illegal unreported and undocumented fishing within the gulf of Guinea as has been highlighted by various reports including the United Nations integrated strategy for the Sahel.”
Ms Tetteh said the increased incidence of the aforementioned criminal activities along the countries of the Gulf, with almost half of the reported incidence occurring off the coast of Nigeria and Cameroon and their gradual spread to other countries of the West African sub-region is extremely alarming.
Ms Tetteh said this when she opened the second meeting of the G7 friends of the Gulf of Guinea group in Accra, a follow up to an earlier one held in September 2014.
The meeting attracted participants from about 69 countries to forge a collaborative effort and adopt code of conduct for the fight against piracy in the region.
Following an initiative of Benin, Nigeria and Togo, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolutions 2018 (2011) and 2039 (2013) encouraging regional states to shoulder responsibility for securing their coast and to jointly define a comprehensive regional strategy.
In December 2013 a Security Council meeting on drug trafficking and transnational organised crime in West Africa recalled the importance of maritime security in combating the problems and called on regional states to strengthen cooperation mechanisms particularly in the police and judicial fields.
Ms Tetteh said the security of the Gulf of Guinea being an area that included the territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of the number of West and Central African countries states require effective mechanisms for collaboration, cooperative and intelligence sharing to fully address the critical situation .
Ms Tetteh said the second meeting was an indication of the importance the group and the countries that are located along the coast of the Gulf of Guinea attach to issues of maritime safety along the Gulf of Guinea.
She said until recently when piracy was mentioned the firstly area that came to mind in Africa was the Somali pirates operating in the Indian Ocean or the Gulf of Aden, hijacking vessels and holding their crew for ransom.
“Sadly however while the situation in the Indian ocean seems to be showing positive, hotspots for piracy and armed robbery linked to illegal fishing, oil bunkering and trafficking in arms and narcotics were recorded.
“The situation appears to be gaining grounds in the region where the high-value assets like oil reserves and metals that pirates target are produced in our region”.
Ms Tetteh said a UN report showed that in February 2012 piracy had resulted in a current annual loss of two billion -dollar revenue to West African economies and the number of ships docked at Cotonou, Benin had declined by 70 per cent as a result of the attacks.
The Minister said “it is estimated that 70 per cent of Africa?s oil production is concentrated in the West African Coast of Gulf of Guinea, adding that oil production of the Persian Gulf nations by 2020 and the growing investments in the region give clear indication of assured increase in coastal trading and maritime traffic in the region?.
?As countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana discover large quantities of off-shore oil resources, attacks on oil rigs and commercial vessels by pirates are likely to increase if the territorial waters are not vigorously and effectively policed by West African naval forces,? she said.
She said individual countries in the region are making efforts at bolstering the capacity of their national naval forces.
Mrs Veronique Roger-Lacan, Ambassador and Special Representative for the fight against maritime piracy said the code of conduct has been adopted and needed to be implemented so that the collaboration would work to increase security in the region.