Maritime 2022 Review (2) – Nigeria’s Pirates Switch from Kidnapping Seafarers to Stealing Oil
The Gulf of Guinea witnessed a dramatic reduction in acts of piracy through 2022 with an IMB report in Q4 of 2022 showing acts of piracy in the first nine months of the year at 50% the levels for the same period in the preceding year.
Indeed evidence suggests that criminal networks have now switched back to oil bunkering, theft and illegal fishing most likely due to these activities being less risky and more profitable. The result of the switch to illegal bunkering is thought to be behind the oil production in Nigeria in August and September 2022 falling to below one million barrels per day as a consequence of a huge surge pipeline vandalism and industrialised oil theft.
A report to the UN Security Council stated that changing dynamics of criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea underline the importance of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, signed in June 2013, and the need for states and their regional and international partners to accelerate efforts to establish security in the region.
The code promotes information sharing and reporting, interdicting suspicious vessels, ensuring apprehension and prosecution, harmonising national legislation, guaranteeing resources to maritime security and safety, and outlining state responsibility to patrol anchorage areas.
However, disagreements between key maritime bodies attribute the drop directly to strategies in which they could be said to have vested interests. The International Maritime Bureau attributed the reduction of piracy and other maritime crimes in the area to the presence of foreign Navies in the region. This was challenged by the Director General of NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh, who said the controversial USD195 million Deep Blue Project initiated by the Federal Ministry of Transportation, but paid for by NIMASA, is responsible for the decline in piracy at Gulf of Guinea.