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National Security Implications of Sea Piracy in Nigeria's Territorial Waters

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National Security Implications of Sea Piracy in Nigeria's Territorial Waters

By

Freedom C. Onuoha and Habiba I. Hassan

Research Fellows

African Centre for Strategic Research and Studies

National Defence College

Abuja, Nigeria.

08037791916

Abstract

The deterioration of security situation in Nigeria has assumed a worrisome dimension in the last nine years of democratic politics. Interestingly but unfortunately, the spate of violent attacks and dispossession of people and organizations of their valuable goods and property have been carried to the sea, as evident in the rising incidence of sea piracy and armed robbery in Nigeria's territorial waters. The frequency of piratical attacks on ships and crew members has not only assumed unprecedented dimension in recent times, but also has attracted expressions of grave concern from national and international organizations. The paper overviews the dimension maritime piracy has assumed in recent times in Nigeria's territorial waters, identifies the factors contributing to the resurgence of piratical violence, and highlights its ramifications for national security. The paper suggested broad policy measures that could contribute to the suppression of piracy in the nation's territorial waters.

Introduction

For the first time in 16 years, Nigeria, which seemed almost unaware of the words kidnap and piracy, has now become a hub of the twin vices.

The deterioration of security situation in Nigeria has assumed a worrisome dimension in the last nine years of democratic politics. While ordinary citizens have resorted to the use of burglary proof at residential homes to guide against men of the underworld, banks all over the country are losing billions of naira due to incessant armed robbery attacks. The Federal Government is still battling with how to evolve a robust security strategy for protecting its critical oil installations and facilities that have come under sustained attacks by militants operating in the crisis-ravaged Niger Delta region. Interestingly but unfortunately, the spate of violent attacks and dispossession of people and organizations of their valuable goods and property have been carried to the sea, as evident in the rising incidence of sea piracy and armed robbery in Nigeria's territorial waters.

The frequency of piratical attacks on ships within Nigeria's territorial waters have not only assumed unprecedented dimension in recent times, but also have attracted expressions of grave concern from national and international organizations. According to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), about half of the 30 deaths recorded in pirate attacks around the world between 1 January and 30 June 2004, occurred in Nigerian territorial waters. In terms of the number of attacks, Nigeria ranked third with 13 attacks, behind Indonesia (50) and the Malacca Straits (20). Pirates operating along the coast and rivers or at anchorages and ports in Nigeria's territorial waters attack and rob vessels, including taking hostage of crew members.

The situation has indeed worsened since 2004. Statistics released by the IMB indicates that Nigeria had the second highest number of piratical attacks in 2008, and continues to be viewed as another high risk area after Somali coast in Africa. Stakeholders in the maritime sectors, both within and outside Nigeria, such as the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA), IMB, and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) have voiced their concern over the deteriorating maritime security situation in Nigeria's waters. Of particular concern is the daring nature that piratical activities have assumed as well as the seeming inability of Nigerian security agents to arrest the trend. Why has piracy resurfaced with renewed vigour in Nigeria's territorial waters? How do we evaluate the implications of maritime piracy for national security in Nigeria? And what measures could be adopted to enhance the security of Nigeria's territorial waters? These and other related questions are what this paper sets out to address.

The paper is organized as follows. Following this introduction it proceeds to a conceptual overview and clarification of terminology. The next section provides a brief profile of Nigeria's maritime limit. While the fourth section overviews the manifestation of sea piracy in Nigeria's waters, the fifth section discusses the factors behind the surge in piratical activities in Nigeria. The sixth section examines the implications of sea piracy for national security in Nigeria. The last section concludes with recommendations on how to suppress the menace of piracy in Nigeria's waters.

Sea Piracy and National Security: Conceptual Discourse

The concept of sea piracy has been variously defined by scholars, international organizations and states. For instance, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), piracy consists of any of the following acts:

(a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed:

(i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;

(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;

(b) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship or aircraft;

(c) any act inciting or of intentionally facilitating an act described in sub-paragraph (a) or (b).

Therefore, for such a crime to qualify as piracy, which is an international crime, the illegal act or crime must be carried out on the high sea, which is outside the twelve mile limit of the territorial waters of a maritime state. It is evident from the above definition that acts of violence against ships, especially those that occur in ports or territorial waters are not regarded as "piracy" under international law. They are therefore classified as "armed robbery". However, an estimated 80 per cent of so-called 'piracy' is not piracy on the high sea as legally defined, but raiding in territorial waters.

Given that most attacks

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