The UN Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) has moved to rally multinational efforts to thwart Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as West Africa loses $2.3 billion to maritime crime in three years.
Mr Sylvester Atere, Outreach and Communications Officer, UNODC Nigeria, made this known in a statement on Friday in Abuja.
According to Atere, reports reveal that the total economic cost of piracy in West Africa has been estimated at $777.1 million annually between 2015 and 2017.
He said that this was in addition to human costs as the Gulf of Guinea experienced an escalation of piracy, kidnapping and armed robbery at sea incidents in recent years.
“A 2018 report stated that attacks in the region more than doubled in 2018, accounting for all six hijackings worldwide, 13 of the 18 ships fired upon, 130 of the 141 hostages taken globally, and 78 of 83 seafarers kidnapped for ransom.
“According to the report, the economic effects on countries like Nigeria and its trading partners are especially burdensome and in the last three months of 2018, 41 kidnappings were recorded in waters off Nigeria alone.
“In October 2018, 11 crew members were kidnapped from a container vessel 70 nautical miles off Bonny Island, Nigeria.
“Two days later, pirates in a speedboat hijacked a tanker underway 100 nautical miles off Point Noire, Congo. Eight of the 18 crew members were kidnapped.
“These are just two recent examples of how armed criminals are reaching further out to sea and targeting a wider variety of ships: bulk carriers, container vessels and general cargo vessels.
“In addition to local attacks on tankers, oil industry support vessels and fishing vessels”, Atere said.
Atere said that worried by the trend of criminality within the West Africa sub-region, Nigeria participated actively in the 2019 Exercise Obangame Express, a multi-national maritime exercise sponsored by the United States Military Africa Command (AFRICOM).
He said that the exercise which was attended by 33 countries from West Africa, Europe and North America carried out weeks of maritime training to improve safety against pirates and to improve the monitoring of the coastline.
He said that in the course of training, 2,500 personnel, 95 ships and 12 aircraft were deployed with the aim of improving regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices and tactical interdiction expertise.
Atere explained that this was to enhance the collective capabilities of the Gulf of Guinea and West African nations to counter sea-based illicit activities.
He said that with a view to covering the legal aspects of this exercise at sea, UNODC developed simulated trials.
The communications officer said that the simulated trails were carried out in cooperation with Interpol, and with support of the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).
According to him, the Obangame maritime exercise was also used as a platform for training prosecutors and investigators in handling piracy and maritime crime scenarios played at sea and preparing all witnesses for cross examination.
Atere said that commenting on the simulated trial, Mr Yusuf Abdulkadir, Head, Maritime Crime Group in the Federal Department of Public Prosecution, stated that “the simulated trial has created an avenue for prosecutors and investigators to test-run the draft piracy bill.
“And see the possible challenges that could come up with operationalizing the bill when it is finally passed into law.”
Atere said that UNODC has been working with the Nigerian authorities and other international partners since 2015 to stave off the threat of piracy and maritime crime in Nigeria.
He said that UNODC has carried out interventions through capacity building, fostering inter agency cooperation and strengthening the legal and policy framework.
He explained that efforts to strengthen Nigeria’s response to piracy and maritime crime are bound to remain ineffective without a strong legal framework.
Atere said that since 2015, UNODC through its Global Maritime Crime Programme has been supporting the Federal Ministry of Justice to prepare the ‘Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bills 2017.
He disclosed that the bills were currently before the National Assembly.
Edited by Wale Ojetimi
Onyeama takes office, lists security of Nigerians abroad, attracting FDI as priorities
Returning Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffery Onyeama says he will focus attention on ensuring the security of Nigerians living abroad and attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the country.
Onyeama made this known in Abuja on Wednesday when he assumed office following his reappointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
He said that his focus would be in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s agenda which aims to make to make the Nigerian economy to be reckoned with at the ECOWAS, African Union, and global level.
Onyeama said that in implementing foreign policies, the ministry would be more aggressive and robust in engaging countries to ensure that the human rights and security of Nigerians anywhere in the world were respected.
He said that to that effect, a call number would be made available to Nigerians living abroad to enable them to call and ask for assistance wherever they were.
Speaking on the attacks on Nigerians in South Africa, Onyeama said that both countries would work on growing a special relationship between them at the presidential level.
He explained that in the framework, the issue of the security of Nigerians in South Africa would be addressed at the highest level.
Onyeama said that there was also a trust deficit between Nigerians living in South Africa and the South African Police.
”Essentially, the priorities of Mr President is what we have to focus on and build from which are security, anti-corruption and the economy
“We have just signed to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCTA) and this can be a game changer for the continent and with 200 million people, we really would define the success of the AFCTA.
”So, we are going to have to cooperate and coordinate with the Ministry of Trade and Investment to ensure that we get maximum benefits from African integration.
”Another important area of Mr President’s priority would be repatriation of looted funds across the world, engaging with countries to get all the stolen funds returned to us.
“And at the Multilateral level, at the UN level, we are going to be President of the UN General Assembly for one year, starting from September.
“We have to leverage on that position to secure as much benefit at the global level for Nigeria,” Onyeama said.
Onyeama called for the support of Members of staff of the Ministry so that they could all work together to achieve the visions of President Buhari for a greater Nigeria.
Also speaking, Amb. Zubairu Dada, Minister of State, Foreign Affairs pledged his support to work with the Minister and staff of the Ministry .
”We are supposed to work as a team because that is the mandate that has been given to u and we can only succeed if we put our hands together.
”In me you find a ready student, back to do some re-learning and I would urge you all to be kind enough to allow me learn from you,” Dada said.
(Edited by Emmanuel Yashim)
Israel Embassy in Nigeria welcomes new Deputy Head of Mission
The Embassy of Israel in Nigeria on Wednesday welcomed its new Deputy Head of Mission, Mr Yotam Kreiman.
According to a statement by Ms Zanswat Bowsan, Press Officer of the Embassy, Kreiman took over from Mr Nadav Goren, as the Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy.
“This is the first ever posting for Kreiman who takes over from Goren, now Head of Israeli Mission in Mexico.”
Goren became the Deputy Head of the Israeli Mission in Nigeria since 2014.
Nigeria News Agency reports that Israel and Nigeria established diplomatic relations in 1960
Edited by Donald Ugwu
Kuwait voices support for preserving Yemen’s unity, sovereignty
The Kuwaiti Permanent Representative to the UN, Mansour Al-Otaibi, said his country was looking forward to the efforts exerted by Saudi Arabia in hosting talks in Jeddah between Yemeni government and representatives of the Southern Transitional Council (STC).
Al-Otaibi said Kuwait hoped that the final outcome of the talks would lead to the return of security and stability in a way that preserves Yemen’s unity and sovereignty over its territory.
However, the Aden-based STC previously said its forces rapidly advanced on the ground and declared full control over the neighbouring province of Abyan.
Lack of funds forces closure of UN humanitarian programmes in Yemen
Lack of funds forces UN to closedown life-saving aid programmes in Yemen.
In a statement on Wednesday, the UN quoted its Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, as saying money pledged by Member States to fund the programmes had “failed to materialise”.
“We are desperate for the funds that were promised. When money doesn’t come, people die,” Grande reportedly said.
At a fundraising event in February, the UN and its humanitarian partners were promised 2.6 billion dollars to meet urgent needs of more than 20 million Yemenis.
To date, less than half of this amount has been received, the statement quoted the coordinator as saying.
“Of the 34 major UN humanitarian programmes in Yemen, only three are funded for the entire year.
“Several have closed in recent weeks, and many large-scale projects designed to help destitute, hungry families have been unable to start.
“Another 22 life-saving programmes will close in the next two months unless funding is received.
“All of us are ashamed by the situation. It’s heart-breaking to look a family in the eye and say we have no money to help,” she said.
According to the statement, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) was forced to suspend most of the country’s vaccination campaigns in May.
Procurement of medicines has been stopped and thousands of health workers are no longer receiving financial support.
Plans to construct 30 new nutrition centres have been shelved and 14 safe houses and four specialised mental health facilities for women have closed.
A treatment plant that purifies the water used to irrigate agricultural fields shut in June, the organisation added.
Grande warned that the closure would affect millions of people in Yemen, “who through no fault of their own are the victims of this conflict, and depend on us to survive.
She said food rations for 12 million people would be reduced and no fewer than 2.5 million malnourished children would be cut-off from essential services unless the funds were received in the coming weeks
Moreover, 19 million people stand the risk of losing access to health care, including one million women who depend on the UN for reproductive health.
Clean water programmes for five million people would be closed at the end of October, and tens of thousands of displaced families may find themselves homeless, Grande reportedly said.
Yemen, a Western Asian country, has been in the grip of a civil war since 2015 that has killed no fewer than 13,000 people including 5,000 civilians.
Pompeo, UNGA president salute victims of terrorism, urge more support
U.S. Secretary of State, Mr Mike Pompeo, and the President of the United Nations General Assembly (PGA), Ms Maria Espinosa, have expressed solidarity with victims and survivo&rs of terrorism.
In separate messages to mark the second International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism on Wednesday, Pompeo and Espinosa saluted the “strength and resilience” of those affected.
The UN General Assembly set aside Aug. 21 annually as the International Day to honour and support victims and survivors of terrorism.
The 2019 edition is dedicated to honoring the resilience of victims and their families.
“We express our solidarity with the victims of terrorism and their families, and condemn the suffering caused by terrorism around the world.
“The State Department will continue to work with our partner governments, international organisations and civil society, to provide victims of terrorism and their families with the necessary support and assistance.
“We honor the strength and resilience of these victims and their families and the important role their engagement and voices contribute to preventing the recruitment and radicalization of potential terrorists,” Pompeo said.
On her part, Espinosa recounted her experience with a 15-year-old survivor she identified as Halimsa/ during her recent visit to Chad.
She said Halima, who is currently a gender activist, refused to become a suicide bomber while in the captivity of terrorists, and upon her release, became a paralegal.
“The PGA said that she felt inspired by Halima, who is a true example of resilience and strength to the world,” the spokesperson, Ms Monica Grayley, told newsmen in New York on Wednesday.
She said as a paralegal, Halima had helped hundreds of women and girls to escape extremism and terrorism, and to combat gender-based violence.
She does this by her work with educational activities, according to the PGA.
Espinosa said more should be done to tackle terrorism, and to support victims “as they try to recover from violence and trauma and to rebuild their lives”.