THE 7TH NIGERIAN DREDGING
SUMMIT AND EXHIBITION,
ASCON, Badagry Lagos Nigeria.
September 13-15, 2013.
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NIGERIAN DREDGING SUMMIT AND EXHIBITION WEB
How the Niger Delta Crisis Spawns Pirate Attacks in
Pirate attacks along Nigeria’s
waterways antedate pre-colonial times. The type of depredations now
prevailing in Nigerian waters, and especially in the Niger Delta, is
one of the most elusive in terms of tracking and elimination. It is
complicated by partisan politics and almost an uphill task to checkmate
because of Nigeria’s current fixation with north-south dichotomy
and ethnic preferences.
The International Maritime Bureau ranks Nigeria in the same scale with
Somalia and other pirate-infested jurisdictions along the Gulf of Aden,
Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea. In West Africa, however, Nigeria’s
record for pirate attacks is unequalled in the sub-region, recording
37 incidents from November 2012 to April 2013.
The Shipping Association of Nigeria recently petitioned the Ministry
of Defense on the matter, drawing attention to six incidents against
merchant shipping and oil platforms between 20th April and 4th May,
2013. All the incidents happened in the Niger Delta. In a related development,
the four largest container carriers, Maersk, CMA CGM, MSC and Hamburg
Sud have snubbed the governments of West Africa in their latest combined
statement on anti-piracy efforts by international jurisdictions. While
acknowledging “success achieved” to “fight piracy
in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, they maintained silence on
West Africa, whose problem is frequently Nigerian by occurrence.
According to the Shipping Association of Nigeria petition, on 20th April,
four armed assailants in a speedboat boarded an oil platform at Funiwa,
Bayelsa State at 02.00hrs local time and kidnapped the supervisor and
On 23rd April, a container vessel, the Hansa Marbug, was reportedly
attacked and boarded 108 nautical miles south of Bonny at 00.20hrs local
time by an unknown number of assailants. They reportedly kidnapped one
Kiribati, one Russian, and two Ukrainian crew members and took them
back to the Nigerian coast.
On 24th April, a container vessel, Bosun, was attacked and fired upon
by pirates 20 nautical miles off Bonny fairway buoy but she managed
to escape with damages.
On 25th April, an offshore crew boat, the Utai 8, was transporting three
crew members to Port Harcourt when the company reportedly lost contact
with the vessel at 09.00hrs local time. According to the report, the
vessel was believed to have been hijacked and used as a mother ship
by the assailants to target other vessels in the area.
On the same day, a container vessel, the City of Xiamen, was boarded
by 14 armed assailants while underway 36 nautical miles south of Brass
at 21.45 hrs local time. The assailants, according to the petition,
approached in two boats, one being the hijacked Utai 8, and the other
a speedboat with an orange hull and blue wheelhouse. They boarded the
City of Xiamen and kidnapped the master and four other crew members
and stole cash from the ship and crew.
On 4th May, a container vessel, CC Africa Four, was attacked and fired
at by pirates 20 nautical miles off Bonny fairway buoy. The vessel managed
to escape with damages.
It is no longer news that the fleet of Nigerian fishing trawlers have
been reduced to a small fraction of its size because of the dare-devil
activities of pirates whenever they pounce on the fishermen. Many Nigerian
fishing trawlers have sold off their fleet and, as a safer and cheaper
alternative, import fish stocks from Argentina and Brazil, etc. It’s
cheaper for the companies but a huge capital flight for Nigeria as its
import bill for fish is currently N105b annually. Figures released by
the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA) reckoned the losses
to its members from pirate attacks in the Niger Delta at $10m.
The law enforcement agents used to be more proactive against pirates
before the last orchestrated clamour for resource control by Niger Delta
governors in the new millennium. That era brought in its wake the formation
and deadly campaigns of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger
Delta (MEND) against the international oil companies (IOCs), their installations
and identified federal government assets.
As a direct fallout from these hostilities, Nigeria’s oil production
was shut-in to the tune of 60% by 2006. Nigeria’s oil exports
dropped to an all-time low of 800,000 barrels per day leading to a loss
of $23.7 billion in the first nine months of 2008. All IOCs operating
in swamp fields in the Niger Delta were directly hit by various attacks
against pipelines and flow-stations since that time. Hundreds of local
and foreign seafarers and all personnel linked with the IOCs and their
service companies are deemed legitimate targets by MEND and other pressure
or militant groups in the Niger Delta.
Activities like pipeline vandalization, blow-up of oil installations,
hijack of vessels and kidnap of personnel and even civilians have flared
up since this inglorious era. As at 2012, it emerged that between 2007
and 2009, SPDC alone spent $343m to protect its staff and installations
in Nigeria. This protection umbrella involved “…a 1,200-strong
internal police force in Nigeria, plus a network of plainclothes informants”,
according to Guardian of London. It was not revealed whether this force
included the ubiquitous Mopol, the special anti-riot policemen, other
detachments from the Nigerian army, navy and civil defense corps.
The ramifications for law and order in Nigeria were far-reaching. Once
MEND and associated gangs of freelance buccaneers, warlords and gun
runners proved that they could confront the federal government and Big
Oil with impunity, every other target was fair game. Secondly, once
the depredations got covered under the amorphous titles of environmental
activism and resource control, the entire Niger Delta territory became
one huge no man’s land for anyone who has the courage to buy a
gun and pull the trigger in any desired direction. That was when piracy
With the amnesty programme of the federal government, kingpins of this
anomie have been rehabilitated into society and have wormed their way
into top government positions in one form or the other. It is clear
as daylight that the current beneficiaries of the instruments of Nigeria’s
federal government literally shot their way to power through blackmail:
it’s either they rule or Nigeria burns! Is it any wonder that
their apparatchiks maintain such fiery rhetoric in the approach to the
contentious 2015 elections? Under such an atmosphere, freelance pirates
are comfortable to operate under famous alibis in the full knowledge
that even if they were caught, the legal system is not in a strong position
to sanction them.
To begin to understand the anatomy of the Niger Delta violence, you
should consider a few questions. For example, to whom was the huge payment
made in the SPDC security expenditure of $343m between 2007 and 2009?
Aside from the obvious cost of maintaining the 1,200 standing internal
army, was the money also used for the settlement of ransom fees? Was
it used to settle community leaders who have a leash on the youths?
And the most important question for our topic is, where does law enforcement
come in in this paraphernalia of settlement and cash-for-peace? In today’s
Nigeria, where lies political authority and the state in all this arrangements
to accommodate deviancy and aberration? And finally, what kind of a
Nigerian ruler can rein in the Niger Delta militants and return the
society in that part of the world to a state of normality?
For starters, the Niger Delta crisis results in a huge transfer of Nigeria’s
wealth to the Niger Delta people by legal and illegal means. In all
likelihood, few beneficiaries of such a situation quickly want to see
the flowing tap stopped, no matter how moralistic this may be. This
partly explains Nigeria’s socio-political quandary. For how long
therefore is Nigeria likely to be beholden to welders of illegal and
guerrilla authority, be they Niger Delta militants or Boko Haram insurgents?
Answer: for as long as it takes for a courageous and fearsome leader
to arrive at the Aso Rock Villa.
A review of the operations of guerilla movements through history reveals
that they mean war whenever they become properly organized to fight
a cause. Take the loosely organized Viet Cong forces in Vietnam in the
1960s or the Al Qaeda / Taliban recipes in Iraq and Afghanistan in the
new millennium. Loosely organized in guerilla tactics, they wearied
the thousands-strong US well-trained, well-equipped army.
In Somalia in 1993, Black Hawk Down was an international episode that
saw the defeat of US boots on the ground in Mogadishu at the hands of
a raggedly militia. When the dust cleared, the casualty list read 18
US soldiers killed and 70 wounded, and more than 500 Somalis also killed.
In 1979, The USSR invaded Afghanistan much to the opposition of the
Talibans who formed a militia to withstand the superpower. By 1989,
the USSR withdrew in shame as the Pashtun tribesmen who knew their land
hunkered down and resisted the Red Army to the end. Thus, in many cases
when well organized military forces have fought against slippers-clad
militias, the former have lost important campaigns, largely underscoring
the notion that asymmetrical warfare is like an uncharted territory
to even the best trained military force.
Militancy and insurgency in Nigeria, whether at the Niger Delta or on
the shores of Lake Chad, tend to assume the profile of asymmetrical
warfare. Campaigns against both MEND and Boko Haram have not registered
decisive successes. They are being lost largely from complications of
partisan politics and a dangerous lack of forceful leadership to take
them on for exactly what they are: challenges to the authority of the
President Goodluck Jonathan lamented that the Boko Haram had infiltrated
his cabinet, without stating any remedy. The amnesty programme is seen
by some as a silver bullet; what is not even an unqualified success
in the Niger Delta where it was implemented. This is proven by instances
where the so-called repentant militants threatened during demonstrations
to go back to the creeks and indeed by these instances of a spike in
piratical attacks against merchant shipping and oil platforms.
The Shipping Association of Nigeria had requested ministerial action
to defend merchant shipping and ensure safe passage for vessels and
crews plying Nigerian waters. The four major container carriers led
by Maersk in the recent press release said they controlled 40% of global
container shipping and view piracy for the threat it represented to
the industry. They identified the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean and
West Africa as the problem areas for piracy. Their meeting, according
to the online press release is mainly to share information “on
security measures, piracy policies and procedures as well as coordination
with relevant stakeholders.
“Although we have seen a decline in piracy activity over the past
year, piracy continues to be a concern for the shipping industry, and
therefore we still need our piracy consensus meetings where we can cooperate
on responses to the threat to ensure the safety and security of our
seafarers”, the statement continued and commended the naval presence
at the Gulf of Aden and the “pursuit of appropriate legal frameworks
to ensure pirates are prosecuted and held responsible for their crimes”.
West African nations seem to be in lack of substantial progress in the
major indices being used by the carriers to measure successful anti-piracy
campaigns, such as law enforcement and prosecution of apprehended pirates
and human capacity and platforms for sea patrol. In Nigeria, even the
The Nigerian Navy, because of old and unserviceable fleets, is now largely
unfit for the battle with pirates and needs a huge injection of materiel
and young blood to ensure frequent patrols of the waterways as the chairman
of the Senate Committee on Navy, Senator Chris Anyanwu, recently acknowledged.
“For you to chase people, you need to have the right vessels to
give them a chase. We have to be present and dominant every inch of
our territorial water and our territorial water is massive, one third
of the country’s landmass. It will take a lot of money to equip
our Navy,” she lamented, while pointing out that the increasing
oil theft, vandalism and illegal bunkering were connected to a big and
influential cabal aided by the foreign firms and illegal tankers on
the high sea.
Furthermore, the jury is still out on the track record of the highly
orchestrated and expensive collaboration between the Nigerian Navy and
the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) which
gave birth to the Global West Vessel Specialist Limited under the control
of famous ex-militant Government Tompolo. One of the curious aspects
of the project is the concept that ex-militants who used to raid the
waterways can successfully rout pirates or pose a sufficiently deterrent
force? The relevant question is whether they will do so with remarkable
commitment, and for how long?
What therefore, is the future of the shipping, maritime and oil industry
in the face of these challenges? It appears that only a determined and
astute visionary Nigerian leader can effectively arm the Navy and enforce
the requisite discipline to ensure it performs adequate patrol and defense
functions, instead of being compromised by the outlaws.
From all appearances, until the emergence of such a political strongman
who can ensure that the law takes its course to rein in militancy and
insurgency by force and coercion instead of by settlement, the Nigerian
society, nay the international shipping community, will not be rid of
these monsters. The downside of pecuniary political settlement is that
it is anti-Machiavellian; it doesn’t work in the long run. For,
as Machiavelli advised rulers and potentates in The Prince, the loyalty
that flows from fear is greater than that secured by love.
The State of Nigerian
Dredges: A New Dredge Repair Yard.
Many dredges being
offered by dredge owners for contracts in the Nigerian industry right
now are far from healthy. There are stories of dredges being paid for
and on mobilization to site, they begin to manifest serious problems
of disrepair. For many days or weeks or months, the client cannot have
his milestones met because the dredge is down while efforts are being
made to buy spare parts or to bring experienced mechanics to perform
Describing this ugly situation, Sir Isaac Chuks, CEO of Funq Tai Engineering
Company, summed it up that many “Nigerian dredges work for two
hours and spoil for five hours”. Read
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Engr Akin Olaniyan on need for NIMASA
to return to original mandate and harnessing cabotage trade...NEW
Dr. Wilson Odafe Omene on Niger
Delta politics, amnesty programme, Nigerian maritime and local govt,
Adeyemo on River Niger Dredging...
P.C. Nwilo on his assessment of NIWA during sabbatical ...
Nseyeng Ebong on his 8-year tenure as rector of Maritime Academy
of Nigeria Oron...
Dumo Lulu Briggs as
chairman of Maritime Academy of Nigeria Oron, his vision...
Muyiwa Omasebi: The face-off Between NIWA, MMSD and Lagos State Govt.
K Folarin: The Collapse
of Nig. shipping lines.
Carrodano: How govt
can revive Nig. shipping lines.
Epia: The struggles
of Nig shipping lines with cargo reservation scheme.
Gibb: Intricacies of
the equipment market in Nigeria.
many choppers has DPR got?" - Chief Ogunsiji.
Dredging the Niger Delta: Interview of Ben Efekarurhobo.
of Surveying in the Dredging Industry
Of Myth, Reality and Resource Control
Law: A judgment on the ownership of a sand dredging site by the
Court of Appeal.
Lagos State Attorney General Interpretes state law on sand dredging
NIWA public notice on Lagos State intervention in inland waterways regulation.
Extract Of The Law To Provide For The Regulation Of Waterfront Infrastructure
Development In Lagos State.