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Nigeria’s Notable Response To Maritime Crimes In Gulf Of Guinea

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Nigeria's Notable Response To Maritime Crimes In Gulf Of Guinea

… Gaya Encapsulates Country’s Towering Strength on Independence Day***

  1. The Gulf of Guinea is the northernmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean comprising a vast and diverse region starting from Senegal to Angola covering approximately 6000KM of Coastline. It covers 2 geopolitical and economic areas; The Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

This maritime domain is rich in hydrocarbon deposits, mineral resources as well as different species of fisheries and marine resources.

The region is also an important shipping zone with a lot of maritime endowments that made it attractive to various criminal elements and non-state actors. These non-state actors exploit the lack of cohesion and diversity of the Gulf of Guinea states, inadequate law of enforcement capacity, corruption, and lack of adequate logistics to engage in maritime criminality such as piracy/armed robbery at sea/kidnap for ransom and environmental pollution.

The rich hydrocarbon resources and vast aquatic life in the region also lead to illegal oil bunkering/pipeline vandalism and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing. The sea lanes have also been exploited for weapons trafficking, drugs, and other contraband goods.

  1. At a time the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) released a report saying the Gulf of Guinea, off the West African coast, is increasingly dangerous to commercial shipping and account for over ninety percent (90%) of maritime kidnappings worldwide.

It was also believed that areas of the Niger Delta of Nigeria were an epicenter of piracy in the world. These areas have witnessed a hydra-headed and complex trend of attacks by various criminal groups which have greatly hampered the economic viability of the region.

NOTICEABLE TREND OF ATTACKS ON SHIPPING

  1. There are some noticeable trends in the mode of attacks on shipping in the Gulf of Guinea that warranted decisive actions by Nigeria. These were informed through careful study of the trends which include area and range of attack target ships, motives of attack, and the use of violence. These are discussed subsequently.

Area of attacks. The areas off Bayelsa, off Rivers, and off Delta State of Nigeria are believed to be the most affected by acts of piracy and other maritime crimes. Prior to the achievement of the relative peace currently witnessed in the Gulf of Guinea, the aforementioned areas were hot spots for varying degrees of maritime crimes.

However, there was a paradigm shift where criminals perpetuating these crimes began to abandon their traditional attack zones and spread their influence outside Nigerian waters. This might not be unconnected with robust actions put up by the Nigerian Navy against maritime crimes. It is also owed to the strengthening of the Yaounde Architecture for Maritime Safety and Security. These are achieved using the instrument of the Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre and the West Africa Regional Maritime Security Centre (CRESMAO) for effective response coordination.

Range of attacks:

The pirates operated deep into the sea up to 244nm, and as far as Cote d’Ivoire to the West and to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, oftentimes extending to Angola to the East of Nigeria’s epicenter.

The wide area coverage by the pirates was informed by a quest for vulnerable and lucrative grounds and a safe haven beyond the reach of states’ counter-piracy efforts. Nigerian Navy, in particular, has some high endurance vessels that can venture deep into the ocean.

These have proffered an extended reach and a credible and sustained maritime presence which serves as a deterrent and interception capability in the Gulf of Guinea.

More so, there are air assets ranging from rotary to fixed-wing maritime patrol aircraft and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles which serve as early warning, interception and intervention capabilities for the Nigerian Navy. Additionally, they enable the attainment of time on task and sustained reach.

Target Ships

The ships targeted for attacks were mostly Cargo vessels, Container Ships, Supply Vessels, and Bulk Carriers which present the possibility of having a large number of expatriates onboard. However, the trend gradually shifted to Fishing Trawlers. Their low freeboard and slow speed during the fishing operations made it easier to board by pirates.

Motives for Attack

Attacks on the aforementioned types of vessels were carried out mainly for monetary or material gains. Historical trend indicates that ships have been attacked and ransacked for valuables such as cash, laptops, mobile phones, or any other things of value. Tankers have also been attacked for their contents being either crude oil or refined petroleum products.

Use of Violence

Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea area known to be heavily armed, rancorous, and violent in attacks that sometimes result in trauma, injury, or death to victims. They employ intimidation and torture tactics to extort their victims and/or employers. Oftentimes, when their demands are not met, it results in losses of lives and properties.

KEY EVENTS IN THE GULF OF GUINEA

The Gulf of Guinea is currently enjoying a relative calm.

The exposé by the International Maritime Bureau on the security situation and non-occurrence of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea during the year under review is a testament to robust security efforts of the Nigerian Navy in the Gulf of Guinea. This has convinced stakeholders to believe that the bad days are over.

However, it is pertinent to highlight some past events that occurred in the Gulf. Some of the major events include:

HIJACK OF HAILUFENG 11

HAILUFENG 11 was hijacked on 15 May 2020 at Cote d’Ivoire. The Hijackers sailed the ship towards Ghana maritime border crossing over to Togo. Intelligence report prompted the Beninese Navy about the presence of the pirated ship in their waters.

Consequently, Benin Navy responded by dispatching patrol ship ZOU towards the position given by the Chinese Embassy in Cotonou. They notify all the maritime operation centres under the Yaoundé Architecture, especially the Multinational Maritime Co-ordination Centre, Zone E.

The intervention of the Chinese became expedient because the pirated vessel switched off her AIS making detection difficult. The first position supplied by the Chinese gives the position of the ship at about 130nm South of Cotonou at 1148hrs on 16 May 2020.

Unfortunately, HAILUFENG 11 slipped into Nigerian waters.

On the Nigerian side, NNS NGURU cast off at about 1350 on 16 May 2020 with seven (07) NN Special Boat Service (SBS) personnel embarked.

The boat proceeded to the sea towards the last reported position of HAILUFENG 11.

However, the hijacked vessel was intercepted at about 2045 at a position 140nm south of Lagos Fairway Buoy.

The vessel ignored all orders to surrender via loud hailer and VHF radio.

Warning and later direct shots were fired at the superstructure. A non–compliant/opposed boarding was executed when all efforts to stop the ship proved abortive.

The Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service boarded the HAILUFENG 11 when she was proceeding at a speed of 9.5 knots. The boarding team took control of the ship at 2210 and rescued 18 crew members consisting of 8 Chinese, 3 Ghanaians, and 7 Ivorians.

The ten (10) pirates arrested were of Nigerian origin who left Nigeria by road to Ghana.

While in Ghana, they made an attempt to hijack a vessel but failed.

The criminals later decided to move to Cote d’Ivoire and made another attempt using a wooden boat which resulted in the hijack of MV HAILUFENG 11.

To achieve the legal end.

The criminals were tried under the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act 2019. The court sentenced the 10 criminals to 12 years imprisonment with an additional fine of Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira only (N250, 000.00) on each of the 3 count charges.

 

STRATEGIES ADOPTED BY NIGERIA

Nigeria has adopted an improved strategy for effective naval presence at sea and ashore. This was achieved through the creation of new naval bases in Lagos State as well as Forward Operating Bases in Lekki and Oguta Lake in Imo State.

The Nigerian Navy has also established bases in the hinterlands of Cross River and Niger States such as Naval Base Mfum and Naval Base SHAGUNU respectively.

The Nigerian Navy also established a type A Naval Base in Lake Chad, Borno State. Other efforts emplaced by Nigeria include fleet capitalization for the Nigerian Navy as well as Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure. These are discussed subsequently.

FLEET RECAPITALIZATION

  1. In recent times the Nigerian Navy took delivery of a new survey ship, NNS LANA in 2021, and NNS KADA in May 2022.

There are also other platforms awaiting delivery to the Nigerian Navy these include High endurance offshore patrol vessels, fast patrol boats, Aluminum Airboats, new Helicopters, and various brands of Unmanned Aerial vehicles. Induction of these Maritime assets has enhanced the Navy’s deterrence capabilities and would make the Gulf of Guinea even safer.

NIMASA DEEP BLUE PROJECT

  1. The Deep Blue project otherwise known as the Integrated National Security and waterways protection infrastructure was launched by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on 10 June 2021.

The project was financed by the Nigerian Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Defense, through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA and is consisting of Land, Maritime, and Air Assets.

  1. DEEP BLUE LAND ASSETS:

The Deep Blue land Assets include the Command, Control Communication Computer, and Intelligence Centre (C4i) for intelligence gathering and data collection, 16 armored vehicles for coastal patrol, and 600 specially trained troops for interdiction operation, known as the Marine Security Unit.

  1. THE MARITIME AND AIR ASSETS. The Maritime Assets consist of special mission ships, seventeen fast interceptor boats while the air assets comprised two special mission maritime patrol Aircraft and 3 special mission helicopters for the surveillance of the maritime domain up to the Exclusive Economic Zone and for Search and Rescue respectively. 4 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles include in the Deep Blue project.

The objective of these assets just like the Nigerian Navy fleet renewal is to tackle incidences of Maritime Security in the Nigerian Maritime Domain.

LEGAL FINISH

  1. The Nigerian Government has made giant strides in enacting legal provisions to curb maritime crimes that have erstwhile bedeviled the waterways. Some of these legal provisions include the Harmonised Standard Operating Procedures for Arrest, Detention, and Prosecution of maritime offenders which was drafted by the Nigerian Navy and was acceded to by the Vice President.

Thereafter, NIMASA championed the the enactment of Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) act which was adopted by the Nigerian President in 2019.

The objective of the Act is to prevent and deter piracy, armed robbery at sea, and other maritime criminalities not only in Nigeria but for the benefit of all states in the Gulf of Guinea.

EFFECTIVE NATIONAL AND REGIONAL INFORMATION NETWORKS

  1. Nigeria has agreed to adopt the full implementation of Yaounde architecture for Maritime Safety and Security with a view to sustaining the present low level of pirate attacks enjoyed throughout the Gulf Of Guinea. It also advises countries in the region to institutionalize a framework for regular dialogue that guarantees collaborative decision-making and effective information sharing.

COMMENTS

  1. The Effective implementation of all these strategies may have been responsible for the improvement of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea as Nigeria is working assiduously not only at sea but also on land.

A lot is being done by Nigeria to dismantle the piracy support networks on land. Exercises such as Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO which is effectively dismantling all illegal artisanal refineries that is believed to be the source of finance and support for piracy and other crimes in the Maritime environment.

This operation is ongoing and has achieved success. Fleet renewal and the acquisition of the Deep Blue Assets by Nigeria also served as a deterrence to the criminal elements. Others also attributed the improvement in Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea to the deterrence achieved by the controversial attack of the Danish Navy against alleged pirates in the waters off Nigeria’s Niger Delta in November 2021.

Some pundits are waiting for the period between November and March, called the pirate hunting season to ascertain the cessation of high-profile attacks by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.

 

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Court Remands 72-year-old Ukpenor For Sexual Assaulting A 6-year -Old Girl

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Court Remands 72-year-old Ukpenor For Sexual Assaulting A 6-year -Old Girl

…As Onuoha, 46 is remanded for allegedly defiling a 17-year-old girl

 An Ikeja Chief Magistrates’ Court on Thursday remanded a 72-year-old man, Patrick Ukpenor in a correction centre for sexually assaulting a six-year-old girl.

Sexual assault attracts a three-year jail term while sexual assault by penetration is punishable by life imprisonment if convicted.

Magistrate E.Kubrinhe remanded Ukpebor at Kirikiri Correctional Centre where he will be until Aug. 13 for trial.

The court did not take the Ukpenor’s plea after the charge was read.

The prosecutor, Insp John Iberedem told the court that Ukpenor committed the offence on July 4 at  Amutu Street, Ilasamaja, Lagos.

Iberedem submitted that the septuagenarian sexually assaulted the six-year-old girl.

The prosecution said the offence contravened the provisions of Sections 261,263(1)of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2015.

In another development, an Ikeja Chief Magistrates’ Court on Thursday remanded a 46-year-old man, Emek Onuoha, in a correctional centre for allegedly defiling a 17-year-old girl.

The Magistrate, Mrs E. Kubeinje, who did not take Onuoha’s plea, ordered the police to duplicate the case file and send the same to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for advice.

Kubeinje adjourned the case till Aug. 13 for DPP’s advice.

The defendant, who resides in Ikotun area of Lagos, is facing a two-count charge of defilement and breach of peace.

Earlier, the Prosecutor, Insp John Iberedem, told the court that the defendant committed the offences in May at Church Street, Jakande Gate, Ejigbo, Lagos.

Iberedem said that the defendant lured the girl into his room and forcefully had sexual intercourse with her.

He said the defendant was caught by some neighbours who handed him over to the police.

The prosecutor said the defendant conducted himself in a manner likely to breach the peace by having canal knowledge of the girl.

He said the offences contravened Sections 137 of the Criminal Law of Lagos, 2015. 

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NEMESIS: Kogi Police Officer Detained Over Alleged Robbery, Car Theft– CP

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NEMESIS: Kogi Police Officer Detained Over Alleged Robbery, Car Theft– CP

…Plate number already changed to an Abuja number, and car dealer’s receipt backdated to 2020

 The police in Kogi have confirmed the arrest and detention of a Police Officer, Insp Aminu Mohammed, for alleged robbery and car theft.

The Spokesman, SP Williams Ovye-Aya, confirmed this to newsmen on Tuesday.

”Mohammed, a crime officer with the “C” Division at 200 Unit, Lokoja, is cooling his heels at the A Division of the command.

“Already, the State Commissioner of Police (CP) Bethrand Onuoha, has ordered an investigation into the involvement of the inspector in the crimes labelled against him,” Ovye-Aya said.

A reliable source revealed that Muhammed was in the police net for robberies around his duty station, in the Lokoja metropolis.

“The stolen car was found in the workshop of the policeman’s panel beater, Arome Moses, who was already working on changing the car’s colour at Ochadamu village.

“Those who know the vehicle and were aware of the robbery incident that occurred in the owner’s house on June 14, quickly raised an alarm upon sighting the car.

“An alarm was raised and the panel beater was arrested by policemen of the Quick Response Unit (QRU) attached to the Police Area Command, Idah.

“On interrogation, the panel beater spilt the beans, and the officer was invited and apprehended.

“The car plate number had already been changed to an Abuja number just as a car dealer’s receipt was backdated to 2020 and presented by the officer as evidence that he bought it,” the source said.

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Alleged $6bn Fraud: Court Denies Agunloye’s Request For Medical Trip

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Alleged $6bn Fraud: Court Denies Ex-power Minister’s Request For Medical Trip

… Over 2003 Contract award titled “Construction of 3,960-megawatt Mambilla Power Station” on BOT basis, without any budgetary approval

 A Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court on Wednesday refused to grant an application filed by Dr Olu Agunloye, a former minister of power and steel, seeking to travel abroad for medical treatment.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting him over certain infractions regarding the $6 billion Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station in Taraba.

Agunloye, who served as a minister in the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, is being prosecuted by EFCC, on behalf of the Federal Government, before Justice Jude Onwuegbuzie.

He was charged in the suit, marked FCT/HC/CR/617/22, with a seven-count charge bordering on forgery, disobedience of presidential order and corruption.

He was alleged to have, among others, on May 22, 2003, awarded a contract titled “Construction of 3,960-megawatt Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Station on build, operate and transfer basis to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited without any budgetary provision, approval and cash backing.

The prosecution also alleged that it traced some suspicious payments made by Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited to the former minister’s accounts.

The defendant, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Delivering a ruling, Justice Jude Onwuegbuzie, held that the defendant failed to adduce sufficient evidence to show that his ailment could not be treated by a hospital in Nigeria.

He therefore dismissed his application to travel abroad for medical treatment.

The judge subsequently, adjourned until Sept 23 for continuation of trial.

On January 11, Agunloye was arraigned on a seven-count charge bordering on fraudulent award of contract and official corruption.

The court admitted him to bail in the sum of N50 million.

The court also seized his passport as one of the bail conditions.

Agunloye, through his counsel, Adeola Adedipe, SAN, had applied for the release of his passport to enable him to travel.

At the last adjourned date, Adedipe said his client needed urgent medical attention abroad.

Some of the documents tendered by the defence lawyer included medical reports from University College Hospital, Ibadan and the NISA Premier Hospital, Abuja.

The defendant also included a letter from the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and an invitation from a foreign medical analyst requesting him to travel abroad for an urgent medical evaluation.

However, the application was opposed by the EFCC which claimed the former minister was a flight risk, having amply demonstrated unwillingness to present himself for trial until he was declared wanted.

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