Defence Minister, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd) on Tuesday flagged off the Sea Power for Africa Symposium hosted virtually at the Naval Headquarters Abuja even as he commended recent efforts towards consolidating and ensuring a downward slope of maritime criminalities within and around Nigeria’s maritime domain.
Represented by the Chief of Defence Staff, General LEO Irabor, the minister cited the promulgation of the Harmonized Standard Operating Procedures on Arrest, Detention and Prosecution of Vessels and Persons in Nigeria’s Maritime Environment document in 2016 as a template for all maritime stakeholders in Nigeria.
He said the upcoming Nigeria Maritime Strategy is an added policy tool that would further galvanize national maritime resources towards the actualization of a virile Blue Economy that is underpinned by effective maritime security architecture.
Furthermore, he appreciated the immense support of President Muhammadu Buhari towards the modernization of the Nigerian Armed Forces and stated that the process has included documentation and codification of enabling policy instruments aimed at achieving comprehensive enforcement of maritime laws.
In his opening remarks, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo stated that the increasing potentials of the Blue Economy has no doubt expanded the duties, roles and responsibilities of navies and maritime law enforcement agencies operating in African waters.
Considering that over 90 per cent exports are covered by sea, Admiral Gambo stated that gatherings of this nature are vital to forge collaborative frameworks towards protecting the over 18,950 miles of coastline on the African continent.
He further stated that the exploration of natural resources is forging new frontiers especially with the huge natural gas reserve potentials on the continent amounting to more than 800 trillion cubic feet which would no doubt accelerate Blue Economy activities.
The CNS further revealed that the Nigerian Navy through the support of the Federal Government has embarked on building institutional capacity for enhanced maritime governance.
He said this was typified by the launching of the Falcon Eye Intelligence Facility, the Deep Blue Project and different asset acquisition and capacity building programmes of the Nigerian Navy.
He further stated that these efforts and investments are yielding the required outputs especially with recent reports of drop in piracy incidents within our waters.
The CNS also said the Federal Government is working assiduously with different stake holders and tiers in government to ensure that the root causes of piracy and other maritime crimes are mitigated through non-kinetic programmes and constructive community engagements.
In retrospect, the tradition of the Sea Power of Africa Symposium was initiated by the Chiefs of the Navies in Ghana Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa at the International Sea Power Symposium held in 2003 at Rhodes Island, USA.
The Symposium offers a veritable platform for African maritime nations to congregate and cooperate to address maritime challenges facing the continent.
The maiden edition was hosted by South Africa in 2005, followed by Nigeria in 2006 and again South Africa in 2009. The 2021 edition is the first to be hosted virtually.