Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on Tuesday added his voice to the call for regional integration of Gulf of Guinea countries to protect the coastal areas and ensure adequate safety of lives and facilities within the maritime sector of the sub-region.
The governor spoke at the opening session of the Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) Africa conference in Lagos and emphasized that the maritime sector remains a critical factor towards achieving economic prosperity for the region and unless there is regional collaboration between stakeholders in the sub-region, the full benefits and opportunities that abound in the sector cannot be achieved.
Mr Adesoye Oyelami, from Lagos Deputy Governor’s office, in a statement, quoted the governor as saying, Lagos, being the host city of the busiest port in the region, is concerned about the activities of criminal elements and the threats their activities pose to the region, adding that the Lagos State government, as a responsible government is ready to partner with relevant government agencies and other concerned stakeholders to put an end to the challenge.
“Nigeria as a country with the largest economy in Africa must take the lead and launch a proactive measure to put a stop these criminal activities as it is germane to our socio economic growth. We are aware of the strategic role Lagos State plays as harbouring the largest port and maritime activities in the West African sub-region. As a government, we are ready to partner and offer necessary support to put an end to the menace,” he said.
The governor, represented by his deputy, Dr Idiat Adebule, enjoined participants and other resource persons at the conference to come up with useful suggestions and enduring measures that will put a stop to the illicit activities of criminals in the maritime subsector.
Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, Chief of Naval Staff, in his welcome address, told the gathering that the Offshore Patrol Vessel conference for Africa, the second in the series, is another platform created by stakeholders in the maritime industry to address the challenges and threats confronting the sector.
Ibas said that Africa’s maritime domain is a strategic economic platform with enormous potentials but noted that these potentials have some threats, ranging from piracy, sea robbery, drugs and human trafficking as well as worrisome pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft have continued to challenge the smooth operation of lawful businesses in the sector.
The Naval Chief noted that these threats are not insurmountable and it is in line with this belief that the conference is holding, where constructive, sustainable and holistic measures can be discussed and deployed towards a safe and secured maritime industry.
He said that since the end of the first OPV conference, the Nigerian Navy has intensified its efforts in combating maritime insecurity and this has led to the acquisition of 2 additional OPVs and is also in the process of completing a second indigenously built Seaward Defence Boat at the Naval Dockyard Ltd to support its operations across the Gulf of Guinea.
The two-day conference is being attended by Naval Chiefs and maritime operators from several African countries as well as the top hierarchy of the Nigerian Navy, Defence and other security personnel in the country.