Chief executives of the three regional cooperation organizations operating in the Gulf of Guinea have signed an agreement to establish a centre to coordinate their safety and security responses.
The Gulf of Guinea is an area with a 6,000-kilometre long coastline between Angola in the East and Senegal in the West that has witnessed an upsurge in piracy and other forms of transnational crime. It produces five million barrels of oil daily and holds 24 billion barrels in reserve, some five per cent of the global reserve, but its vast resources also include fisheries and other minerals.
As well as piracy, illegal trade in crude oil, trafficking in persons and drugs, illegal and unregulated fishing, waste dumping and pollution are all challenges that the region faces and the three regional organizations – ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States), CEEAC (Economic Community of East African States) and the Gulf of Guinea Commission – are moving forward with their efforts to face these challenges.
The Inter-regional Coordination Centre for the Implementation of Regional Strategy for Maritime Safety and Security in Central and West Africa (ICC) will develop a “unique strategy framework” to deal with the issues of criminality at sea that integrates safety, security, development and governance dimensions.
This ‘Additional Protocol’ for the ICC, which was signed in Yaounde, Cameroon, on June 5th follows on from a memorandum of understanding signed a year ago by the heads of state and government of the three organizations.
The Yaounde-based ICC will, amongst others, build the capacities of civilians and military personnel of West and East Africa in maritime law enforcement; coordinate training and practices; facilitate information exchange among the navies of the member states and ensure the protection of the environment.
The Centre will have both military and civilian staff. It will be tasked with ensuring the compatibility and inter-operability of the architectures for maritime safety and security in the two regions, information generation and dissemination and cooperating with regional organisations responsible for the fisheries and mining sectors.
Also signed at the ceremony were the Rules of Procedure for the annual general meeting of the Chief Executives, the body responsible for orientation, monitoring and evaluation of the Centre including the appointment of key staff such as the Executive Director, the Deputy and Heads of its five divisions as well as staff discipline.
ECOWAS Commission Vice President Toga Gayewea McIntosh, who signed for the organisation, said the link between regional security and development had been strengthened.
In her speech, French Special Representative for the control of maritime piracy Veronique Roger-Lacan spoke of the strategic value of the gulf. As well as its wealth of resources, the region also accounts for between 28 and 40 tonnes of the cocaine trafficked from South America to Europe (valued at €1.3 billion).
The Nigerian press reported a statement by the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja saying that the ICC strategy framework integrates safety, security, development and governance dimensions.
West Africa, where the oil and gas market is experiencing significant growth, is to hold a summit on the security challenges on June 18th-19th in Lagos, Nigeria. The Maritime Security Review reported that the summit will be a fully comprehensive platform for Security Professionals to meet and discuss new solutions and methods to be sure that the strategies they put in place are as strong as can be, and are tailored to the specific security concerns facing West Africa.
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