Interview: How multi-pronged approach can improve GoG security- Effedua

Commodore Emmanuel Effedua(Rtd.)
Rector, Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Akwa Ibom

Considering the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) in the eye of the storm, several suggestions have emerged from discussions at the Global Maritime Security Conference, on the security of the GoG as it remains very important to global trade.
In this interview with Commodore Emmanuel Effedua(Rtd.), Rector, Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, Akwa Ibom, he talks of the strength of the Navy in combating piracy and other crimes at sea; the fact that perpetrators of the crimes at sea return to land after their operations; the multi-dimensions of the threats and how a multi-pronged approach including collaborations can offer long-sought solutions.

How well will engagement of locals in form of collaborations, ensure more secure shipping?

The threats are multi-dimensional and they keep evolving, so you cannot easily say one plus one equals two. For example, there is no maritime crime that takes place in water that did not have its origin on land, e.g those people who go to hijack ships, they don’t remain at sea. They take hostages and bring them back on land. Yes, maybe locals could be involved in some intelligence there, to tell people where they can locate people who were kidnapped. But that is just a minor part of it. The most important thing is to prevent the untoward occurrence from taking place in the first place.

What should really be the strength of the Navy platform for operations against piracy and other crimes at sea?

The maritime space is so wide and no amount of ships deployed will be enough. The Nigerian Navy has a lot of platforms, but it is still insufficient. Running a Navy is very expensive. It is not like the way the other Armed Forces are run. Not that those ones are not expensive too, but that of the navy is huge. The cost of building a ship is big; a very complex ship can buy more than 40 aircrafts. But it is just one, while the aircrafts are more. The beauty of the aircraft however, is that it can carry out the search of a wide area within a short time, but intercepting and arresting has to be the job of the navy.

The critical role of communication and collaboration to handle piracy problems?

The C41 like we have now, is the way forward in the sense that you require less manpower. Though more expensive, it is more efficient. All they need to do is, if they intercept any untoward activity at sea they report back to the maritime headquarters that so and so is happening out there, they don’t know what it is, but a surface ship should be sent there to find out what is going on, so it becomes easy to arrest. Like what you call the ‘Falcon Eye’ that is what the C4i is riding on, the navy has that already. It is like you compiling a surface picture of an environment, in this case, the maritime space. At any point, we know where every vessel is. When we know where they are, we positively identify them to NIMASA. NIMASA being the lead agency has the technical knowhow and all information about that vessel; where it is going, point of origin, where it is going and what it is carrying and when it is supposed to berth. So, if it does not berth when it is supposed to berth, then you know something is wrong. Then, the navy can tell you the path it has passed through, where it stopped and where it is right now. From there we can follow-up and investigate and know what they are doing. So, in case of those who divert products or those who engage in illegal bunkering, it is becoming easier now to pin them down and track them. I think that is just the way forward. What we have now is even more than C4i. It is now C5i, because we now have Command, Control, Communications, Computer and Collaborations is included. Already in NIMASA, we have that collaboration; NIMASA, Navy, NPA and maybe at some point NIWA.

What about the global outlook with regards to efforts at fighting piracy?

I was actually among those who agitated that the Global Maritime Security Conference must hold. This is because we have a problem in our maritime space, the world knows of it and some people are making a lot of noise about it, while some are actually turning it into a political weapon against Nigeria. Sadly, some unpatriotic reports are done based on hear-say. The IMB would note them down, and at the end of the day they say okay, this is what is happening in your place. That is why some countries now insist on taking war insurance to bring cargo to Nigeria, which makes goods very expensive. Remember, it is the end-users who suffer it. In essence, the same magic the Western World did for the Gulf of Aden when the Somalia crisis was so high; kidnapping, the Indian Nation, piracy number one, the Strait of Malacca very dangerous, they brought in their naval assets and had all countries collaboration and they were able to address the problem. The Gulf of Guinea is a very important maritime space and they cannot afford to look away. Now that we have shouted and told them we have a problem, we want you to come and advise and also help, it will not be easy for them to criticise us anymore, because we have told them our major challenge. So, where they fail to help, they take the blame.