Waves of Terror

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Insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea is increasingly on an uptick with piracy a frequent occurrence. The Gulf is regarded as the world's worst piracy hotspot with maritime piracy progressing by about 50 per cent in 2019. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reports that incidences of marine piracy increase from 78 reported incidents in 2018 to 121 in 2019. The attacks include hijacking of vessels and kidnapping of sailors. The number of crews kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea in 2019 amounts to more than 90 per cent of kidnappings reported at sea globally. According to IMB, the Gulf region accounts for 64 incidents that occurred worldwide in 2019.

From the preceding, it can be suggested that insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea is surging worrisomely more than in other regions. In 'Piracy: Violence in Nigeria's Waterways', Nextier SPD posits that there has been a considerable shift in the geography of maritime piracy with Nigeria being among the worst-hit countries. From the ensuing trends, the cases of attacks in Nigerian water bodies have significantly increased, suggesting that the country has displaced Somalia as a hotspot of maritime attacks. In 2018, the United Nations (UN) reported that Nigeria lost about $2.8 billion to piracy. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), between 2015 and 2017, West Africa lost an estimated $777.1 million annually in economic and human costs due to piracy.

The annual escalation of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea is a threat to affected countries, particularly Nigeria. About 7 per cent of the nation's oil fortune is lost to this menace. The security crisis is a clear threat to development in the region, and it requires a regional commitment of countries in the area to tackle it. Taking a different approach other than security, according to the International Peace Institute, many communities in the Gulf are neck-deep into underdevelopment and poverty. This has created a condition whereby locals are increasingly seeking ways to survive these harsh realities. The attending consequences are seeking other measures that may not be legal to improve their living conditions, and this has worsened insecurity in the region.

Ideally, just as it is recommended in the Sahelian Storm, non-combative efforts like policies and programmes that focus on achieving development in these rural and security prone areas are one of the efficient ways of tackling the insecurity. This argument toes the line of Paul Collier's Greed versus Grievance Theory that argues that combatants in armed conflict or insecurity are driven by the desire to better their living conditions. This may also be due to unavailability of state structures and programmes that seeks to cater for the welfare of people.

When a community has a development crisis, and governmental efforts are inadequate or absent, the people are forced to seek other ways to survive. As witnessed during the Niger Delta militancy, the inability of government and oil companies to address developmental issues in the oil-rich zone largely contributed to the violent militancy. In essence, while affected countries of the Gulf are mobilising to take a combative approach at the Gulf crisis, adequate time and resources should also be channelled at providing sustainable development in the region that have been characterised by rising poverty. The waves of terror in the area will most likely be a recurring decimal if both combative and non-combative measures are not deployed.