By Steve Agbota and Idu Jude, Abuja

Maritime stakeholders have advocated the need for effective collaboration in the fight against maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.

They expressed concern at the 5th Plenary Session of Gulf of Guinea (GOG) Maritime Collaboration Forum (MCF) Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) Initiative, with the theme: “Enduring and Sustainable Security,” in Abuja on Tuesday.

Speaking at the event, the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh, said that today’s regional forum will be a place to share mutual maritime concerns, jointly face the threat and together create the mitigations.

He assured Nigeria, through NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy, that they stand ready as co-chair of the SHADE to continue to provide every necessary support in collaboration with the Interregional Coordination Centre (ICC).

He said that they would nurture the baby through its early teething challenges till the SHADE matures with results that all would be proud of within the region, adding that the NIMASA is supporting the forum with logistics and policy formation.

In his address, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Awwal Gambo who was represented by Rear Adm. Saidu Garba, Chief of Policy and Plans, said that the concept of GoG Maritime Collaboration Forum SHADE was to ensure an efficient collaborative framework toward improving maritime security within the area.

He said that the forum offered a veritable platform for GoG nations and other partner nations to congregate and cooperate to address the piracy challenge facing the region.

According to him, the GOG has a coastline of about 2,874 nm endowed with hydrocarbon and mineral deposits and a comparative advantage owing to the absence of narrow maritime shipping lanes, straits or chokepoints linking major global shipping destinations.

“Sadly, this comparative advantage has been threatened by the activities of criminal elements perpetrating piracy and armed robbery at sea, which have continued to undermine the economic lifeline of nations within the region.

He said hence, the need for a sustained collective collaborative effort by relevant stakeholders.

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He, however, appreciated all coastal nations within the region as well as international partners and relevant stakeholders that have made positive strides in the area of multinational and interagency cooperation and response to piracy incidents in the GOG.

“On the part of the Nigerian Navy, the successes recorded were largely due to its ongoing efforts towards building institutional capacity in reinforcing capabilities for maritime governance.

“This has been deeply supported by the Government of Nigeria, through the Office of the National Security Adviser, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Transportation and Defence Headquarters amongst others.

“Nonetheless, there is still room for greater collaboration in the areas of information sharing, increased presence of naval assets and strengthened legal frameworks among the GoG nations as well as international partners.

“I am optimistic that the respective discussions and suggestions on tackling emerging maritime security challenges, would provide platforms for sharing our thoughts and experiences towards improved maritime governance in the region,” he said.

Similarly, Rear Adm. Solomon Agada, Co-Chair of the Forum said that the vision of GoG SHADE was to have a Gulf of Guinea maritime environment free from incidents of piracy and armed robbery.

“While the mission is to strengthen national, regional and international naval cooperation to combat piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea.

“Today’s sessions have been crafted to provide us with the substance for the discussions on our way ahead as we look to build upon the progress that has been achieved. This is because collaboration and cooperation require the application of commitment that will take time to truly deliver. We must remain steadfast in that commitment.

“As Co-Chair of this forum, I am acutely aware piracy is but one of many maritime security threats in this region, and I am also aware, in my capacity as the Nigerian Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations, how all navies are continually having to adapt to many demands placed upon their time,” he said.

He, however, said that within the framework of the Forum, the stakeholders had committed as a region and as an international community to cooperate to operationally respond to the piracy threat which causes direct harm to both the people and economies.

“We will continue to count on your support as we move forward on the all-important mission to strengthen national, regional and international naval cooperation to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea,” he added.