Nigeria’s Niger Delta region is known for a number of things in Nigeria. For one, it is where most of Nigeria’s massive crude oil deposit resides. Since oil was discovered in the region, it has undergone some years of environmental degradation. Several multinational oil companies drill in the region for oil, and it is not uncommon for oil spills to get into rivers and onto farmlands. This has rendered many residents of the Ijaw communities whose livelihoods are farming and fishing.
Recently, when two communities sued Shell, one of the multinational oil giants doing oil exploration in the region, the United Kingdom Supreme Court ruled against these communities. According to the judge, the communities did not have the legal right to sue a subsidiary of the company for spills that had occurred for a very long time. Also, Shell’s legal representative had argued that the spills were not as a result of their operation but the handiwork of saboteurs and pipeline vandalizers.
Sea piracy is a menace perpetrated by militants in the region.
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence by ship or boat-borne attackers upon another ship or a coastal area, typically with the goal of stealing cargo and other valuable goods. This is an additional issue to the numerous ones faced by residents of the indigenous communities in the region. So, the Ijaw Diaspora Council (IDC) has urged the federal and state governments to join forces in curbing piracy in the Niger Delta region.
According to the group, some of the causes of the problem in the riverine region include legal and jurisdictional lapses, underfunded law enforcement, inadequate security, permissive political environments, the culmination of years of inattention, desperation and lawlessness. This call was made at the convening of an international conference on law of the sea and maritime on June 10, 2023, and a statement was issued by the president of the group, Prof. Mondy Gold later on.
Tackling piracy will improve the welfare of citizens in the region.
Tackling piracy will ensure that governance processes and the welfare of the people in the resource-rich region can be improved. IDC stated that residents of Niger Delta were urged to shun the lure of dollars from buyers of stolen crude oil to Nigerian youths, especially in the Niger Delta region. They were also advised to drastically minimize corrupt foreign government officials and financial institutions receiving and recycling illicit funds; ransom payments for crews and sellers in dollars; and exotic lifestyles from the proceeds.
All of these serve to wet the appetite for these criminal activities and further attract the youths. The conference called on governments in Niger Delta in its communique to support Operation Obangame. The operation is the largest multinational maritime exercise in West and Central Africa, which includes numerous sea and ashore training events throughout the Gulf of Guinea and the Southern Atlantic oceans. Obangame was sponsored by the United States Africa Command in order to combat the threat of oil theft in the region.
Conference agreed to collaborate and improve synergy among stakeholders.
Stakeholders at the conference noted that the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act 2019 of Nigeria empowered the Deep Blue security architecture of the federal government of Nigeria to prosecute offenders. The conference acknowledged that the law has reduced the incidence of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea to a manageable level. Finally, the conference agreed to collaborate and improve synergy among stakeholders and sustain the gains made by the Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA) and work with member States and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the establishment of an Integrated Coast Guard Function Network.