From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), has declared that Gulf of Guinea as the most dangerous maritime area in the world.
The UNODC Country Director on Drugs and Crime, Dr Oliver Stolpe who stated this in his remarks at the opening ceremony of a three-day United Nations-backed workshop on combating piracy and maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea at the Chief Harold Dappa Biriye Conference Centre in Yenagoa, disclosed that the Gulf Of Guinea recorded 25 sea piracy attacks in 2020.
While describing the rate of drug use in Nigeria as three times higher than the global average, Dr Stolpe noted that effective fight against insecurity can only be attainable if drug use was effectively controlled.
He commended Governor Douye Diri for the initiative stressing that it would enable local communities to put strategies and interventions in place to prevent crime and on stakeholders to leverage on the community-based approach to address drug use and prevention.
Stolpes disclosed that the programme is a pilot initiative to test approaches and expressed the hope that it would be effective for other states to emulate and attract support from federal government and international bodies.
Diri in his address expressed worry over the insecurity occasioned by sea piracy, drugs, human trafficking and other criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea.
While decrying the level of insecurity in the gulf, Senator Diri noted that the maritime industry was the backbone to the global economy, adding that no effort should be spared in tackling the menace.
He appreciated the initiative of UNODC to curb the menace, saying that his administration would support the body to actualise the goals of the project.
The governor also expressed the readiness to host the Gulf of Guinea Security Conference in collaboration with major stakeholders in order to unravel the root causes and design a regional approach to combat the scourge.
He said: “The malady might be preponderant in the Gulf of Guinea but it is equally a crisis of global dimension. Sadly, sea piracy is not the only security threat undermining us at sea and along our waterways. It has also focused spotlights on wider complications of maritime insecurity such as trafficking and smuggling of humans, weapons, narcotics and unregulated and illegal fishing.
“Bayelsa State is prepared to provide leadership and embrace international best practices to fight and prevent crime. I have no doubt that this project would be fundamentally beneficial to our people and state. We have traditional ties, through trade, religion, culture and ethnicity across the sub region and this creates a platform for our modern security collaboration.”
He equally called on the United Nations, its agencies and partners to support his administration to empower the youths for development opportunities and make crime induced by drug abuse less attractive.
Diri also stated that to create an enabling environment to attract investors, his administration was rejigging the security architecture of the state and the enabling laws through collaboration with relevant security agencies.