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Why Nigeria’s election year may see a spike in pirate attacks

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At a shipping conference in Copenhagen last Tuesday, intelligence experts voiced a curious hypothesis about pirate attacks in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea: The attacks, they said, will increase as Nigeria gears up for general elections scheduled for February.

“The ransoms are used for the elections,” Hans Tino Hansen, managing director of Risk Intelligence, explained, referring to the cash pirates demand for captured ships and their occupants.

According to Hansen, the relationship between elections and piracy in Nigeria “is sort of a feudal system” that has long existed. Some politicians are accused of covering up and protecting pirates in exchange for a cut of their revenue, which is then used to finance election campaigns.

Alex Vines, who leads the Africa program at Chatham House in London, offered a similar interpretation of piracy statistics. “There also needs to be further investigation into the use of oil theft as a campaign finance mechanism,” he said, pointing at another source of income for Nigerian pirates apart from ransom payments.

Piracy costs the international community as much as $28 billion each year, according to the Danish Shipowners Association. This figure includes public and private costs incurred from loss of merchandise, securing cargo ships and routes, ransom payments, and decreased volume of trade due to the threat of piracy.

But are claims that Nigerian politicians finance piracy credible — and if so, is there a solution? Let’s take a look at the numbers and what other researchers say.

Piracy does tend to increase ahead of elections

Using data collected by the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau, we visualized the number of reported attacks, highlighting the years with major general elections since 2003. With the exception of 2011, the trend does seem to match the described pattern. In the lead-up to the 2015 elections, for example, piracy has rapidly risen.

The ICC maritime bureau — an authority on piracy-related subjects – echoed Hansen’s explanation for Nigerian piracy in 2008: “The motives for the attacks are at least partly political in Nigeria,” the bureau’s analysts said in a report.

But how do experts explain the piracy decline in 2011?

There are three possible reasons. In 2009, the Nigerian government granted amnesty to many militants in the Niger Delta whose groups had been blamed for attacks in the Gulf of Guinea region – both offshore and on land.

This picture — showing some of those militants — was taken in 2006, one year before the 2007 general elections, when piracy spiked.

The amnesty might have caused a temporary decline in violence, because it entitled 26,000 ex-militants to a monthly allowance of about $400. But attacks surged after it became clear in 2011 that the amnesty funds were mismanaged and that many political promises would never be fulfilled.

“The mismanaged allocation of amnesty funds is a likely driver behind [the] significant rebound in maritime piracy since 2011,” Bryan Abell, a former fellow at Stanford University, wrote in an article this year. He specifically referred to the central Niger Delta and surrounding areas. According to him, Nigerian politicians have more interest in arming their political supporters “to intimidate rivals” than in paying them to disavow violence.

Vines offered another explanation: In 2011, many politicians were running for a second term in the Niger Delta. “This year, however, a number of governors have reached the end of their constitutionally permitted second term. Hence, the campaign will be much more competitive.”

Another explanation for the decline in 2011 could simply be flawed data. The ICC International Maritime Bureau takes into account only reported incidents, but many attacks are never made public. The bureau concedes that “the real number of pirate attacks is at least twice as high as the official figure.”

There is lots of money to be made in the Gulf of Guinea, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. Simple robberies bring in about $10,000 to $15,000 per attack — potentially amounting to $1.3 million annually in recent years. Another target is oil, which accounts for 80 percent of Nigeria’s budgetary revenue. It could generate as much as $30 million per year for pirates and militants.

Why we should care about piracy in Nigeria

What happens in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, can have an enormous regional impact. Many experts believe that Nigerian piracy is unique for several reasons. It accounts for 71 percent of all incidents in West Africa, according to Risk Intelligence, and the methods used by Nigerian pirates are highly profitable. “Pirates that succeed to hijack a product tanker and transfer the cargo into another tanker may earn up to $6 [million] to $8 million in an operation that takes maybe six to seven days,” Hansen said. Lengthy ransom negotiations are less common among Nigerian pirates.

While pirates’ profits are high, the political will to tackle piracy is low. Nigeria is currently fighting the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the north of the country. Fatalities from non-criminal violence — a term that includes attacks by terror groups and communal or political actors — have rapidly risen since 2010. Given the growing Boko Haram threat, combating piracy is a low priority.

What’s more, despite problems in the gulf and the country’s north, Nigeria has recently increased its crude oil production, and this summer the World Bank cited positive economic prospects for the country.

But some experts say piracy is linked to other endemic issues that need to be addressed to further boost Nigeria’s economic outlook.

“Piracy, for example, can only be fought if corruption were seriously tackled,” said René-Eric Dagorn, a geopolitics professor at Sciences-Po Paris.

Referring to ethnic and religious cleavages that have led to bloodshed in the past, Dagorn added: “Apart from state building, we also need ‘society building’ — and this will take longer than only a couple of years.”
Washington Post—-
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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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