Gulf of Guinea summit ends, as leaders agree to give pirates no breathing space

By The Citizen

The first ever summit of Heads of States and Governments of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), with  focus on maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea, ended yesterday in Yaounde,  the Cameroonian capital, with key decisions reached.

Fielding questions from newsmen on the side lines of the just ended Summit, President Goodluck Jonathan  declared the end was near to the excesses of piracy with the commitment and determination of all the leaders present.

He noted that the highest number of attacks were on the Nigerian waters as a result of the high volume of oil industry activities and trade, assuring that the leaders of the West African Coast and the Central African Coast, will expand cooperation to check the illicit activities that were hampering economic growth of the region.

Jonathan who commended President Paul Biya for hosting the Summit, expressed happiness with the way the conference ended.

According to him, “the key thing about this conference is the issue of piracy and armed robbery in our coastal waters of which of course you know we have quite a number of attacks in Nigeria because of the volume of oil industry activities and the trade being a very big country.

“The only way we can contain it is for the countries within the Central African Region and West African Region to come together.

“Already Nigeria and Benin have been partnering but we need to expand across the coast, the West African Coast and the Central African Coast. So this is the beginning of the end of these excesses of piracy, so we are quite pleased with the conference”.

Reading the communique of the summit, the Cameroon Minister of External Relations, Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo said the member states of the three blocs (ECOWAS, ECCAS and GGC)have agreed on a coalition for a multi-lateral assistance amongst all the 25 members.

“Harmonization of members for information sharing on security issues within the Gulf of Guinea and constant convening of conferences on maritime security.

“Joint cooperation by military of the three blocs (ECOWAS, ECCAS and GGC) to patrol and secure their borders.

“They agreed to put up a mechanism for the three blocs ((ECOWAS, ECCAS and GGC) to work together for strategic activities to check piracy.

“They agreed to put in place structures that will enable the military personnel of the three blocs (ECOWAS, ECCAS and GGC) to work together with each bloc as well as individual countries”.

In his closing remarks Biya said, “what we have come up today is within the context of African solidarity.

“The agreement is to provide a secured space for easy circulation of goods within those regions.

“The meeting has achieved our aims to progress on fighting piracy.

“Though maritime piracy is difficult to stop, we are going all out to reduce it drastically”, he said.

Biya said he was satisfied with the collective strategy taken for security and posterity within the context of the Gulf of Guinea protection.

He commended the solidarity and confidence among member states, saying it was the original intent of the summit and it has been achieved.

He thanked the United Nations, all the actors as well as the delegation for participating in the conference “and more so that today is World Maritime Day”.

President of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno, who was the moderator for the closing ceremony, thanked President Biya for bring all of them together noting, “after all, all of us depend on the sea for survival”.

The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, said, as a result of the summit and the awareness of individual and collective responsibilities to our people, Nigeria and Benin have agreed to construct border posts that would clearly define the entry into Nigeria and exit out of Nigeria and vice vasa with the Republic of Benin.

“What it means is that the frequent harassment that occurs within the Seme border will no longer occur. We all agreed that it will be unnecessary to allow a situation as it were to degenerate to the one that will lead to confrontation between two brotherly countries”.

Also the Minister of State for Defence, Olushola Obada, said the Summit noted the worries expressed by leaders of the harm piracy and armed robbery  on the shared waters was doing to the economy. She said the ships from Europe and other parts of the world were gradually becoming afraid to come the three blocs waters.

“And that is why it is of extreme importance that the synergy and the cooperation between member states of these three blocs should take place.

“The agreement will also protect our blue economy. Our blue economy consist of the fishes and other sea food like the prawns. These are also national asserts of all these countries which is why they agreed that all member states that make up the Gulf of Guinea from Senegal to Angola should come together to protect their God given prosperity. This of course will also put the minds of our international partners at rest that they can do business in all these countries without fear of being attacked by pirates and so on”, she said.