…As Group calls for Nigeria, neighbouring countries joint patrol to tackle cross border insecurity***
Nigeria is seeking member states of the Gulf of Guinea Commission’s collaboration towards evolving measures to combat insecurity challenges in the region.
Nigeria also urged the member states to show commitment to their financial obligation toward the commission.
Amb. Zubairu Dada, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs made the call on Wednesday in Abuja during the 11th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC).
Dada said that the collective quest to address the security challenges in the region required member countries to endeavour to put in place measures to check the violation of domestic and international treaties in the region.
“Nigeria’s resolve to address the security problems in the region led to the recent signing into law of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act by the Country, which gives a comprehensive framework to tackling the issue of piracy and other maritime crimes on Nigerian waters.
“I commend efforts of member states of the Gulf of Guinea Commission who through strengthening the capacities and capabilities of their Navy and other institutions are fighting the insecurity in the region.
“On our part, Nigeria will continue to intensify efforts, in collaboration with relevant countries, partners, and institutions within the sub-region to address the current security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea.
“This 11th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the Gulf of Guinea Commission once again provides an opportunity for all of us, the member states to redouble our efforts to revitalise the orgnisation as approved by the 4th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of States, to enable the GGC achieve its mandates,” Dada said.
He recalled that in Nov. 2017, while taking the mantle of leadership of the organisation, Nigeria called for renewed commitments on the part of member states to make the Gulf of Guinea Region a zone of peace and security.
He added that Nigeria also tasked member countries on sustainable development for the benefit of individual countries, the people, and stakeholders in the region.
The minister of state, however, noted that the GGC was faced with challenges, which have threatened its smooth operations.
He said that the challenges could be traced to lack of member states’ commitment to holding regular meetings.
He said that another challenge could be traced to the continued unwillingness of the majority of the states to pay their annual statutory contributions to enable the organisation to finance its numerous activities.
Dada said that the commission was in a dire financial situation and that unless urgent action was taken in the meeting to address the concerns, the situation might put the smooth functioning of the organisation at greater risk.
Also speaking, Amb. Florentina Ukonga, Executive Secretary, Gulf of Guinea Commission said that the experts had worked very hard to come up with recommendations to encourage participation of member states is GGC’s activities.
Ukonga said that the recommendations included timely contribution and liquidation of arrears of contributions and appropriate participation in GGC’s activities to enable the organisation to achieve its objectives.
“Assistance from outside the region is good and desirable but this should not be substituted for our own action to be at the vanguard of solving our problems.
“Our institutions must function with or without assistance from our partners. We must be fully committed to the principles of helping ourselves first before calling on others to help us.
“This is the only way our institutions an grow and solve the problems they were established to solve.
“We must never forget that our interest as States in the region are not necessarily the interest of other stakeholders operating in the region”, Ukonga said.
The Gulf of Guinea Commission was established in 2001 with set objectives which includes combating maritime crimes- piracy, sea robbery, illegal bunkering.
The commission also aims to combat environmental pollution, drugs and arms trafficking, as well as illegal unreported and unregulated fishing.
Member countries of the Gulf of Guinea Commission includes: Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sao Tome and Principe, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo Brazzaville
In the meantime, the Association of International Trade and Investment Promoters of Nigeria (AITIP of Nigeria), has called for a regular joint patrol and meetings between Nigeria and neighbouring countries to resolve issues that led to closure of Nigerian borders.
The Association made the call in a statement signed by its president, Prof. Kabiru Isa in Abuja on Wednesday.
Isa explained that there was the need for those countries that shared border with Nigeria to always discuss issues around border security, import and export of goods prohibited by each country.
He said with this was the best for all countries to strengthen brotherhood.
“The effort by the Federal Government to encourage consumption of locally produced items such as rice through the border closure is highly commendable.
“This step will protect and encourage local producers to continue to produce local brand of rice and the positive multiplier effect into the economy cannot be over emphasised,’’ he said.
He, however, said the decision to close filling stations around the border areas of 20kms distance had no doubt increased hardship to the existing hard times being experienced by those living around these communities.
According to him, the government can as well control the sale of these products in these areas by taking statistics of their daily or weekly requirements and allow only that quantity to be lifted from a particular designated marketer and delivered to those areas.
He added that this could be done with a very close supervision from an independent group and security agencies in order to safeguard against diverting the products.
“AITIP of Nigeria is ready to engage with relevant government agencies for further strategic discussions on the land borders closure matter and other international trade and investment issues in the best interest of the Nigerian economy and beyond.
“We believe that the present government would not want strategic issues to be exposed to the print or electronic media but prefer to discuss them at strategic meetings,’’ he said.
Isa further said the action by the Federal Government to close borders had no doubt had its consequences.
He noted that the worse hit by the border closure was the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which survival depended largely on importation or exportation of goods such as ginger, and sesame seed among others which passed their goods through these borders.