The G7 Friends of the Gulf of Guinea Group (G7++FOGG), Monday met in Nigeria to join forces with regional stakeholders to tackle the issues of maritime crimes bedeviling the region.
Led by Italy, the G7++ harped on maritime crimes such as drug and human trafficking, illegal fishing and indiscriminate pollution in the Gulf of Guinea (GOG).
According to the group, the GOG, with its over 6,000 nautical miles which stretches from Senegal in the North to Angola in the South covering 20 coastal states, is vital to the economy of nations.
The highly attended meeting, which was hosted by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ete-Ibas, focused on the fight against piracy, illicit trafficking of narcotics, weapons, human beings and goods, illegal fishing and marine litter, as well as the development of the maritime economy as a whole.
The Lagos meeting is coming on the heels of the one held in Rome, Italy, where more than 120 participants from over 40 countries, regional organisations, non-governmental organisations and companies met to discuss the security conditions of navigating in the GOG, where ships are often attacked by pirates.
The G7++ comprises Germany, Canada, United States, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Brazil (observer), South Korea, Denmark, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and the European Union.
According to the G7++ President, Mr. Daniele Bosio, the important proof of the ever-increasing involvement of the African partners in building the region's maritime security influenced the decision to hold the second annual meeting in Lagos.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, who was the special guest of honour, decried the recent increase of criminality in the GOG region.
According to him, "In recent years, the Gulf of Guinea region experienced increase in the rate of criminality mostly in the Nigerian waters, which include kidnapping, piracy, illegal unregulated and unreported fishing, smuggling, human and drug trafficking, illegal bunkering and crude oil theft among others."
"Unfortunately, factors that fuel the acts are centered on the socio-economic issues in the Niger Delta region coupled with the activities of external collaborators who derive pecuniary benefits from internationally organised crimes.
"To change the narrative of insecurity and criminality in the Nigerian waters, the Nigerian Government adopted the hard and soft power approach, including bilateral and multi-lateral collaborations with organisations and countries within and outside the region.
"The hard power approach is spearheaded by the Nigerian Navy in conjunction with other maritime security stakeholders such as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
"Meanwhile, an anti-piracy bill is being legislated on at the National Assembly, and to further boost employment and curb crude oil theft, the federal government is in the process of establishing modular refineries in the region.
"It is gratifying however to state that the various measures adopted to stem the rising tide of criminality in the Gulf of Guinea have yielded positive results."
Guests at the conference were the Navy Chief of Training and Operations, Rear Admiral Ferguson Bobai; the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Slyvanus Abbah; Commander NNS Beecroft, Rear Admiral Maurice Eno, and NNPC Information and Investigation Manager, Mr. Best Dulagha.
Also in attendance were delegates from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Ministry of Defence (MOD), ENI, International Criminal Court (ICC), Economic Organisation of West African States (ECOWAS), International Police (Interpol), African and European Unions.
Some of the G7 countries in attendance were Denmark, Germany, Japan, France, USA, Norway, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Netherlands and United Kingdom.
Other African countries in attendance were Ivory Coast, Benin Republic, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Republic of Guinea, Togo, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Liberia.