Cameroon will on June 24 to 25, 2013 welcome Heads of state and other world leaders for the first ever international meeting on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. In his announcement on June 17 2013, Cameroon’s Minister of Communications, Issa Tchiroma said Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) member countries, United Nations (UN) representatives; African Union (AU) and Interpol officials will attend the summit.
The Gulf of Guinea is found in the northeasternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean between north and west to Cape Palmas in Liberia and Cape Lopez in Gabon. Among the many rivers that flow into the Gulf of Guinea are the Volta and the Niger . The coastline on the Gulf includes the Bight of Bonny and the Bight of Benin. Organic sediments were deposited especially by the Niger River into the waters of the Gulf of Guinea over millions of years which became crude oil. According to Wikipedia, lastly modified on June 15 2013, the Gulf of Guinea region, along with Angola and the Congo River delta are expected to provide around a quarter of the United States of America’ oil imports by 2015. This region is now considered as one of the world’s top oil and gas exploration destinations.
For some time now, Nigerian gangs have targeted the waters of West Africa, making the Gulf of Guinea the newest hot spot for piracy. The Gulf of Guinea is home to one of Africa’s busiest ports with a lot of oil and fuel passing through each year. Pirates have targeted ships carrying oil and fuel that can be easily sold on the local black market. Pirates have also attacked countries that border the harbour, including the Ivory Coast. According to a report from eNews Channel Africa, dated May 30, 2013, a total of 58 attacks were recorded in the Gulf of Guinea last in 2012, including 10 hijackings. The latest attack occurred in February 2013 where pirates hijacked a French-owned fuel tanker off Ivory Coast.
It is obvious that insecurity is a serious issue in the Gulf of Guinea. This has seriously affected the business operations of multinationals especially oil companies with heavy investments in the region. What really is the cause of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, and what are the possible solutions to this melee? Of course an international meeting on security in the Gulf of Guinea is necessary, but will this solve the concerns of security in this area, especially if inhabitants of this area feel disgruntled about economic gains trickling out of their region?
First of all the private sector in the Gulf of Guinea is still seriously underdeveloped. The indigenes of this area remain improvised and unemployed, while major multinational companies benefit from natural resources, with encouragement from unscrupulous African leaders. Secondly, the taxes paid to African governments by multinationals are instead starched in foreign bank accounts by corrupt leaders, while their citizens languish in poverty. Although former World Bank executive, Nigeria’s minister for finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at the Lancaster House conference on Saturday June 15 2013, purported that multinationals pay far less taxes than they are supposed to, this money can be put into good developmental use by African governments.
Stepping up security in the Gulf of Guinea is thus very important, but this cannot solve the problem of insecurity in the area. Insecurity concerns in the Gulf of Guinea thus warrant a holistic approach, with more attention on creating jobs and improving the livelihood of the indigenes. Many may argue that most of the pirates carrying out atrocities in this area are from parts of the African continent such as Somalia, but the truth is that these pirates even recruit disgruntled locals who do not benefit from the proceeds of the natural resources exploited from their area.
There is therefore a need for the various governments in the Gulf of Guinea to revamp their private sector and create jobs for their citizens, a majority of whom are of youthful age. It is equally vital for taxes paid by oil multinationals especially to be judiciously utilised in the development of the area. Instead of allowing this money to be starched in foreign bank accounts, African leaders should be coerced especially by these multinationals and the World Bank to ensure that the money paid in as taxes is judiciously used for development and employment. It may also be important for states in the Gulf of Guinea to develop a local policy content which would allow for locals to benefit from activities of multinationals. Ghana already has a commendable local policy content. Other countries in the Gulf of Guinea like Gabon and Cameroon need to follow same. With such a combination of possible suggestions, the Gulf of Guinea would definitely be a safe haven not only for multinationals, but also for the indigenes of this area who also suffer from these attacks.