How Coastal Countries can Curb Piracy in W/Africa Waters, by Lokpobiri
*As Pirates Hack Vessel in Ghana, Abduct 3 Korean Crew in Nigerian Waters
By Nsikan Ikpe
Nigeria’s Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the current President of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC), Senator Heineken Lokpobiri has urged member countries of the West African sub-region to ensure that all vessels plying the coastal waters of the region must install the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) device for proper tracking of the vessels by the maritime security agents as a way of curbing the incessant incidences of piracy in the sub region.
In addition, Lokpobiri advised that all vessels in the sub region must also be made to install an Automatic Identification System (AIS) and the Transponder device for easy and proper communication.
According to the minister, with these equipment in place, it will be easy for the vessels to be under the radar of the maritime security agencies for proper monitoring and tracking of the activities of the vessels.
Lokpobiri gave these hints when he received the Secretary General of FCWC, Dr. Seraphin Dedi who visited him in his office in Abuja at the weekend to brief him about the activities and the proposed ministers’ conference of the Committee billed for Togo in November.
The minister spoke following the complaint by Dedi that a fishing vessel was recently hacked in the Ghanaian waters by some pirates and taken away to the Nigerian waters, where three Korean nationals were eventually adducted by the pirates.
Lokpobiri stated that, “The fact that pirates went to Ghana, hijacked a vessel and it could not be recovered calls for more collective collaboration on how we can strengthen our synergy and to enable us achieve the objectives of the FCWC.”
According to Lokpobiri, if the vessel in question had had all the necessary devices in place, it would have been easy for the Nigerian navy to track it and avert the abduction.
He stated that his ministry currently makes it a precondition for any fishing vessel owner wishing to license or renew his vessel license to have all the equipment in place.
“What we are trying to do is that for any license, any fishing license to be issued or renewed, one of the new policies we have developed with the Nigerian Navy is that you must install the VMS, where from the Naval headquarters and from the regional offices in Calabar, they can see all our ships in the Nigerian waters. Any ship that is in distress, we just press the relevant button and the nearest navy base will swing into action,” Lokpobiri said.
According to him, “We have also discovered that most of the cases of piracy were faked. Your own crew in your own vessel will create a scenario where they will say oh they have been attacked and all the fish have been taken over. These are some of the issues we are having transhipment in the sea. You invest in a vessel, you send them, you pay them, they go and after fishing, they sell them off in the sea and they claimed that they were robbed.”
The minister disclosed that with this precondition of the devices in place, the issue of piracy has been drastically reduced in Nigeria.
Lokpobiri regretted that the whole lot of illegal activities going on, where people just come to our waters and after fishing they tranship to another ship and there is no record of what they have taken from our artisanal waters is one major challenge we need to take on in Nigeria and the member states of the sub region.
The FCWC President stated that if the Nigerian experience is replicated in the member countries, it will go a long in curbing the menace, noting that, “If there is interconnectivity in the region and if something happens for instance in Ivory Coast, our relevant security agencies will be able to see in Nigeria that so so thing has happened, where it is moving to and if all of us get to know what happens in the region, we will be getting towards achieving the objectives which the FCWC was set up.”
Senator Heineken Lokpobiri