Security in the Gulf of Guinea, discussed in HoC

Investingindevelopment recently took part in a timely discussion in the House of Commons: Environment and Security in the Gulf of Guinea  much of the discussion was about  oil,  gas and shipping investment confidence in Nigeria.  Speakers were:

Edward Akhigbe, former Head of Special Projects,  the Nigerian National Petroleum Company

and CEO of Seawatch Security and Safety Ltd

Audun Mikalsen, Managing Director, Afromarine Ltd

Mark Lowe, Owner of The Maritime Security Review and KR Magazine

Eric Joyce MP, Extractive Industries APPG

Speakers introduced themselves by talking about their professional experiences in Sub-Saharan West Africa:

Edward  talked about  his oil and gas expertise and his relationships with IOCs and Nigerian Government departments. There is a rising incidence of maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea and illegal bunkering is still a huge problem in the Niger Delta. He welcomed more transparency, more international cooperation and improved partnerships with private maritime security companies in Nigeria.  He is based in Lagos, and is working to improve the local environment in the Niger Delta and increase confidence for investing in Nigeria by bringing his long experience of  the Nigerian oil and gas industry to maritime and port security services.

Audun is a well known blogger and speaker. He is the Managing Director of Afromarine Ltd a London-based maritime consultancy specialising in shipping to Sub-Saharan regions of Africa. With long experience of working in the Mozambique Channel and the Gulf of Guinea he talked about the problems he sees with rising costs for transporting  specialist cargoes, often  for the oil industry but also how security problems are limiting opportunities for exporting local agricultural products, adding to existing problems in the local economy. Audun conveyed to the House of Commons audience a passion for working in West Africa and for building partnerships in the Gulf of Guinea to overcome some obvious operational difficulties for shipping.

Mark Lowe is a security advisor working in the UK and in Nigeria; he is also a journalist best known for his online publication the Maritime security Review . Mark talked about regional cooperation in West Africa to combat maritime crime  and went on to highlight the underlying socioeconomic  factors that lead to unemployment for young Nigerians  who also become involved in illegal bunkering or worse. His plea was for further investment in infrastructure  that will lead to better youth employment in Nigeria but also for the UK to support West African know how.

Eighty guests attended this event; there were questions to the panel from the IMO, London Shipping Companies, IOCs and several West African embassies including Nigeria, the discussion was informed and  lively:

Vice Admiral Mike Akhigbe, former Vice President of Nigeria and Chief of Naval Staff, raised the issue of knowledge transfer and collaboration between state security apparatus and the private sector. In his opinion, there is the will within the Nigerian Navy in particular to work in closer collaboration with the private sector. Mike is well known for the policies he put in place to combat illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta while he was head of the Nigerian Navy.

Chris Trelawny is Senior Deputy Director, Sub-Division Maritime Security and Facilitation at the IMO.  Chris gave a useful overview of  the West African maritime problem and quoted some recent statistics for maritime crime, piracy and illegal bunkering in the Gulf of Guinea. Like others in the audience he also raised the issue of corruption. He asked for Nigeria to become more involved with the IMO.

Paul Gibson is Director of Security in Complex Environments Group (SCEG), a trade association for the UK private security industry. Paul described how his members are operating through partnerships with several Nigerian security companies and how a useful model for partnership with the Nigerian Government is evolving. He was confident that many of the lessons learned by UK PMSCs from operations in the Gulf of Aden, since 2008, were transferable or directly adaptable to the Gulf of Guinea, despite obvious  geopolitical differences between countries like Somalia and Nigeria.

More on the background to this discussion from Chatham House 

Martin Brown