From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Executive Secretary of the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC), Florentina Adenike Ukonga, has said that illegal activities at sea still continue to pose a serious threat to the region.
Ukonga made the disclosure during the 12th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the GGC, preparatory to the 5th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the GGC in Abuja.
Ukonga recalled that the meeting was the first after the COVID-19 pandemic which disrupted the functioning of the GGC during the year 2020 and 2021, adding that the pandemic also limited the execution of the Approved Plan of Action for 2020, mostly due to travel restrictions.
She further said the meeting should be given the importance it deserved, since the GGC never had any statutory meeting in almost three years.
“And considering that the last one was held in October 2019, it is also imperative to note that the illegal activities at sea still continue to pose a serious threat to the region, and it is in our interest to give the Commission the impetus to make it more dynamic in carrying out its mandate as enshrined in the Treaty establishing the Gulf of Guinea Commission, which was signed on July 3, 2001,” Ukonga said.
Ukonga also said the Executive Secretariat continued to strive to carryout its functions, even though it is constrained by delayed payment, non-payment of contribution by some member states and the irregular non-holding of statutory meetings.
She stated that the impediments have really limited the activities of the executive secretariat, but have not stopped the Executive Secretariat from interacting and collaborating with the regional partners and other relevant agencies in finding solutions to many criminalities in the Gulf of Guinea region.
“It is our dear hope that our member states will continue to support us by ensuring that the statutory meetings are held timely and representation at the appropriate levels, and that members states shall continue to fulfil their financial obligations by paying regularly and promptly. The GGC cannot function effectively without financial support of our Member States.
“It will interest you all to know that Members states are still not fulfilling their financial obligations, as at today, the Executive Secretariat have only received contributions from four Member States for 2022: Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Ghana and Nigeria. Others are owing in the region of 315 years. We need the honourable ministers to look into this critically and with keen interest,” Ukonga also said.
In his remarks, the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, said as part of efforts to revitalize the activities of the commission, Nigeria hosted the 11th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the Gulf of Guinea in Abuja from 11th to 20th November, 2019.
Dada also said the session observed that non-payment of assessed contribution to support the Commission’s operational budget, by a number of GGC member states has seriously affected the effective delivery of the organization’s mandate.
He added that it was instructive to note that Nigeria has championed several efforts towards fighting maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea.
“In June, 2019, Nigeria’s National Assembly passed the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act, 2019, (PROMO act) which aims to prevent and suppress Piracy, Armed Robbery and any other unlawful acts against a ship.
“Furthermore, Nigeria has continued to deploy significant resources towards tackling piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Similarly, through the Deep Blue Project in June 2021, the Government of Nigeria, Under the auspices of NIMASA, unveiled $195m worth of boats, vehicles and aircraft to spearhead the country’s fight against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The operational mechanisms in the Gulf of Guinea Region as you know are similar to those in some other Regional organizations. For instance, ECOWAS and ECCA have adopted protocols on the security of their Maritime domains and also set up Regional Centers ad Maritime Security respectfully.
“It is therefore imperative that the GGC adopts a collaborative strategy to engage partners and donors in creating awareness on the objectives of the organization, with a view to synergizing for more effective result towards fighting maritime insecurity in the GGC region,” Dada said.