• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Stopping the bleeding of maritime economy in Gulf of Guinea (2)

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 What Nigeria needs is enforcement with demonstrable prompt and sharp punishment of offenders to serve as deterrent.

A British diplomat warned African littorals to desist from proliferating institutions but to support and work with existing ones, arguing that the sooner we wake up from the paralysis of analysis into the trenches of action the better.

Where do we go from here?

Do the Navy and other security agencies have what it takes to cope? In the exciting days of the late 1970s and early 1980s when the NN warships were visible in the sub-region, a ubiquitous car sticker proclaimed “NAVY HAS IT!” Whatever other action steps are being recommended to deal with piracy et al, Nigeria requires a strong Navy.

Undoubtedly, tough naval action is inseparable from other effective solutions to the threats posed by pirates, poachers and other criminals at sea. Examples of the use of navies in such operations abound in many parts of the world. Therefore, political, legal, social and diplomatic solutions as proffered by several participants at this and similar gatherings must be undergirded by maritime security agencies with the Nigerian Navy as the primus inter pares.

Some urgent steps to winning solutions

It is recommended that the nation and the Navy take the following action steps to ensure enduring solutions to the problem of piracy and similar criminalities:

1) Sea sense: Understanding the sea and its enormous potentials by political leaders and policymakers is the first step every navy should take to ensure it receives what it needs. Speaker after speaker at conferences chorus the African “sea blindness”, lack of maritime culture, and such other expressions. These are indications that African coastal nations will continue to be short-changed in maritime matters as long as stakeholders don’t understand what it takes for these nations to manage and harness the benefits of the sea around them. Navies have a job to do here.

2) Strategy: Beginning from the Jaji-promoted “size and shape of the fleet” debates in the early 1980s to the formulation of Admiral Koshoni-led Trident Maritime Strategy from 1987 to 2012, to the current Total Spectrum Maritime Strategy, the NN has always taken the initiative to articulate some form of maritime strategy from its perspectives. In addition, the Strategic Guidance 01 issued by the CNS in October 2012, when implemented, will drive the Total Spectrum Maritime Strategy, though seen by many observers as a naval or Nigerian Navy strategy.

There is, therefore, a need for a comprehensive National Maritime Strategy providing clear guidelines for maritime security and other actions. The proposed ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy, covering maritime economics, education and training, environment, governance, resources, safety and security, may become a handy model for all nations in the economic community.

3) Ships and craft: As the CNS told a reporter recently, Navy people cannot walk on water in the course of their work. They need appropriate platforms with logistics cum fund to run them. Hopefully, the current recapitalisation of the NN ships will come to the rescue.

4) Social responsibility and community action: As we were reminded at the conference, the onshore-offshore linkage of maritime insecurity, which informed the incorporation of the backwaters into the formulation of the Navy’s Total Spectrum Strategy, should also inform intensification of development efforts in the Niger Delta.

5) Skills across the maritime security spectrum: It is heartening that the NN has been driven to respond to asymmetric threats in the creeks, inshore and by establishing the special forces modelled after the British SBS and the US SEALs for counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism and anti-piracy in the nation’s maritime domain. Capacity building in the areas of safety and search and rescue should be standard for the Navy and other maritime security agencies. They are staples in the operations of people-oriented navies.

6) Salesmanship: The need to market the Navy to stakeholders, as is done in developed democracies, is urgently called for. Navies in Africa should find solutions to the “silence of the admirals” whether serving or retired. The initiative for this may have to come from the naval headquarters while the commitment would be required from all concerned. There should be online briefing and dedicated e-mail service to keep them updated.

7) Spokesmanship: Who can speak for the Navy from position of knowledge is a moot point. Of course, official information on issues of public debate should come more promptly and often from the naval headquarters. But public enlightenment and informed commentaries should come from well-informed and knowledgeable retired officers.

8) Sincerity of purpose, political will and commitment: While the National Assembly debates the Petroleum Industry Bill and many other bills, political leaders should be reminded that the geese that lay the golden eggs are daily being stolen by pirates, poachers and vandals. Let the leaders get urgently committed. 

 

OLUTUNDE OLADIMEJI

Oladimeji, a retired commodore, wrote in from Lagos.

 

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