With massive investment in maritime security in the recent past, resulting in satellite capabilities and increased operational platforms, the removal of the country from war risk zone is not in sight, a situation that keeps insurance premium ships coming to the area,to pay on the high side, in what has been described as an international conspiracy against Nigeria. ANDREW AIRAHUOBHOR reports
Is there a justification for additional cost imposed on goods coming to Nigeria because the country was included in the list of war risk zones which attract high insurance premium? Many argue that the many security challenges being reported along the territorial waters is enough reason. But some others think otherwise, insinuating that the security challenges could have been premeditated to achieve certain goals.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) accused foreign insurance companies otherwise known as Protection and Indemnity (P&I) clubs, of sabotaging Nigeria’s economy especially in the report of piracy activities in the sub-region.
Director General of NIMASA, Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, said that P&I clubs deliberately raise the red flag on vessel operating in sub-Sahara African region in other to milk them of more insurance money, lamenting that a lot of losses are being incurred through the marine insurance sector.
To him, most of the reported piracy attacks are untrue and a deliberate sabotage from foreign insurance companies. He observed that the P&I clubs have made so much out of Nigeria and other African countries, saying that there is need for Nigeria to have an equivalent of such in the country in order to make better gains.
“Virtually all the major insurances in this sector are done outside of Nigeria and this is a huge capital flight, we have a huge population and in the sub-saharan Africa, 69 percent of the cargo traffic is from Nigeria, and why is it that our insurance in regards to marine is so weak when we can make so much money?
“Sometimes you hear of piracy attacks, but most reported cases of piracy are untrue, it is because the insurance companies want to make money, and if they don’t raise the red flag, how will they make the money? So they must paint our image as bad as possible to get that insurance money” he said.
The NIMASA boss lamented that the situation is highly political and a form of sabotage, even as he urged operators to come together and have an equivalent in the country. “If we cannot do it alone, all sub-saharan African countries should be able to come together to form one.” he said.
Director of Shipping Development, of NIMASA, Captain Warredi Enisuoh raised vital questions relating to the controversial war risk zone Nigeria has been listed in. “Yes they have considered us a war risk zone. But who do they pay war risk insurance to? They pay to foreign companies, which have employees who must be paid salaries. So how are they going to pay their employees if they accept that this is not a war risk zone?
Another question raised is “How do foreign negotiators get involved immediately after a hijack situation? How do they get in contact with the people? These are questions that Nigerians should ask. If one operates a security or insurance company that has to live because you are insecure, I think one will continue to sponsor insecurity so as to stay in business.
“One can sponsor it in various ways. Either one get directly involved, or raise fear. Just like a company saying if you don’t take ten body guards from my company you will be killed. What would you do? You are forced to invest because the fear is now there.”
He however said that NIMASA is in the forefront of the situation. “We know what is going on and we try as much as possible to ensure that we douse a lot of this. Has anyone ever asked us when was the last time a tanker was hijacked and the oil was siphoned? It used to be a norm before this DG came, but why is it that there is no such thing anymore?
“Why was it even on tankers alone before? Something is not right. Did anybody even think that it could be a well calculated insurance fraud that was also going on. The pre arranged hijack because of companies that take what is called Kidnapper Ransom Insurance. A lot of foreign companies do pay kidnapper ransom insurance and decide to kidnap themselves then go back and partake in insurance money again.
He cited the incident in warri when some foreigners were busted, they said they were kidnapped, but actually they were inside a hotel.
“As a working Agency we concentrate more on the job. You have to be careful how much you discuss with public about these things because we have our own strategies as well. It’s an intelligence community and we work very hard inside of that intelligence community not to even make them understand our strategy and how we get a lot of these information,” he said.
He noted that Somalia Piracy was really high before now, suddenly somehow things are beginning to die down in that particular region simply because their collaborators, which are the Somalians also, are becoming aware that they did not even have one tenth of what they thought they would gain collaborating with the foreigners to make the place unsafe so that insurance companies can win.
“Are you going to tell me that they killed all the pirates? No. But they discovered that they did more damage to their nation. Now these same insurance companies are looking for new businesses. How do they do it? Declare your own area as a war zone,” Enisuoh said, adding; “How many war ships do we have fighting or defending this country as a war zone?”
Enisuoh noted that a lot more these days are focused on kidnapping than even going for the oil. We have been able to hold down the industry in such a way that if you use a ship to attack a ship, we can see you. So, they have abandoned that. May be the next range of satellite we have is the one that detects you carrying somebody.”
Current maritime security challenges
The prevailing maritime security challenges in Nigeria waters include: Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea; Oil theft and pipeline vandalisation; illegal unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF); dumping of waste and other matters; illegal bunkering; human trafficking and smuggling of small arms and ammunitions.
International community has over the years, labeled Nigeria waters, within the Gulf of Guinea region, as not safe. Gulf of Guinea, which covers Nigerian waters, is regarded as the most dangerous waters after the Somalia and the Gulf of Aden waters.
Investigation also shows that only tanker vessels with oil are being attacked. This is attributed to the so much money involved. Besides, most of the time, oil cargo in a tanker vessel is owned by one person and that one person can have time for the insurance company. But if a container ship is taken, there are more than 200 owners on all the boxes.
Attraction of Gulf of Guinea
The ecosystem of the gulf of Guinea region is a source of global interest. Apart from its openness to the Atlantic Ocean, countries of the region like Nigeria, Angola, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and lately Ghana, are endowed with abundant natural resources such as crude oil, diamond and gold.
The region is also very rich in fishery and agricultural resources, which have significant economic importance to the increasing food security challenge in the world. In addition, the countries in the Gulf of Guinea have a large population of about three hundred and fifty million people and hence provide a significant market for imported goods and this has contributed to making the sea lanes in the region ever busy.
Specifically, Nigeria is blessed with a vast coastline of about 853km with a multitude of economic activities, including various types of shipping and other maritime operations. It is important to underscore the point that Nigeria’s economy is largely dependent on crude oil export and these accounts for about 80 percent of government revenue and 95 percent of foreign exchange earnings.
According to Matthew Eigbadon of Highfliers Solicitors and former secretary of NIMASA Board, Nigeria also accounts for over 65 percent of total maritime traffics, in volume and value, into West and Central Africa. This placed the Nigerian maritime domain in the position of key destination for international ships, including tankers of all sizes.
Eigbadon said the situation of the safety and security of maritime activities in the Gulf of Guinea became so dire that in 2011 the United Nations, was compelled to send an Assessment Mission to the region and the team turned in a damning report.
“It is against these backgrounds that the aims, objectives and protocols of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the partnership between the Nigerian Air Force and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency was conceived and given birth to in 2013.
Maritime Security News:
The continued attempts to suggest that piracy and maritime crime in Nigeria’s waters is somehow an invention of the insurance industry are both amazing and worrying. Moreoever, it is unlikely that anyone who reads them and has even a passing knowledge of piracy in the region will believe them.
Under-reporting in the region is rife and this sort of article really doesn’t help. Similarly, the recent announcement by NIMASA to detain any ships containing armed or unarmed foreign maritime security guards does little to ensure security for shipping in the region.