I want to thank David for translating this article published by Ángeles Jurado in the first Spanish daily, El País, about piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Africa beats Southeast Asia as the number one maritime piracy hot
spot. Approximately half of the pirate attacks reported worldwide take
place or on the coast of Somalia (East) or in the Gulf of Guinea (West).
However, the first, in the Horn of Africa, lives a decline which
coexists now with the rise of the assault to the merchant or shift
tanker in Nigerian waters.
The Professor, consultant and lecturer Fernando Ibáñez (Zaragoza,
1969) specific to the causes of these mutations in the waters off the
Horn of Africa and West Africa are multiple, but mainly are in military
and security. Three international military missions, military convoys,
the hiring of private armed security on board vessels that ply the
Indian and self-defense in the form of evasive maneuvers or closure of
the crew in a safe area are the fundamental reasons why Ibáñez
contributes to explain the fall of somali piracy.
In the case of the Gulf of Guinea, this activity, that develops from
years ago on the shores of West Africa, is becoming a business
increasingly more lucrative and now receiving greater attention in the
international media. Rarely, however, refers to the framework in which
develops: widespread corruption, unemployment, abandonment of the State,
and theft of oil on land and piracy as labour outflows that twin local
population impoverished, militant, forces of security and senior
officials and politicians. According to the researcher, Vanda
Felbab-Brown in a recent study,
the populations that inhabit the Gulf of Guinea come on pirates “a
source of investment, an increase of consumption, a local economic
activity growing and even job opportunities”.
There are other factors to consider. Corruption, opacity, and fraud
that dominate the country’s oil sector are proverbial. A test: the
recent dismissal of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi
Lamido Sanusi, in theory for reporting the theft of millions of dollars from the national oil Corporation of Nigeria’s oil revenues.
According to a report by Chatham House on theft of crude oil into the Gulf of Guinea,
signed by the researchers Christina Katsouris and Aaron Sayne, Nigerian
officials and corrupt members of the security forces specialized in the
business of stealing crude oil during the military dictatorships. The
return to democracy in 1999 gave an opportunity to certain civil offices
and political “godfathers” have more access to stolen oil and extended
the network of corruption and patronage.
Experts say that the three States that produce more oil – Bayelsa,
Rivers and Delta–have some of the highest per capita income of Nigeria
and West Africa. However, that money is lost, to a large extent, in
accounts abroad and at the service of the personal interests of the
politician who manages it. It is revealing that the Governors of eight
of the nine States of the Delta were investigated for corruption between
2003 and 2007.
Violence and environmental destruction.
Nigeria is the tenth third country producer of oil, with exports that
surpassed the two million barrels a day in 2012. 5.4 million barrels of
crude oil move daily through the Gulf of Guinea: 40% of imports of
crude oil in Europe and nearly 30% of the United States. According to
some estimates, the country loses an average of $ 12 billion a year for
The aforementioned report by Chatham House is focused on sabotage to
pipelines and the economy stemming from the theft of crude oil in
Nigeria. Katsouris Sayne, piracy in that area of the planet rises in the
most important for the security of West Africa today, threat after
terrorism in the Sahel.
No shortage them of reasons to consider it so. The area of operations
of the Nigerian pirates is in expansion and arrives to the port of Abidjan or the territorial waters of Angola,
with an economic cost estimated between 674 and 939 million dollars
only in 2012. Also we talked about environmental destruction, political
instability and violence, while piracy links are not clear groups armed
al – Shabab as Boko Haram. This last terrorist, causing real havoc in Nigeria, has recently declared its intention to extend their radius of action to the Delta.
To fight against this phenomenon, the Nigerian Navy has 15,000 men,
two dozen ships and a budget of $ 450 billion in 2013, just 20% of the
total defence budget of the country.
A success rate of 80%.
“The attacks in Somalia are concentrated in certain months by the
influence of the monsoon – argues Fernando Ibáñez – and take place at
any time of the day, but especially to first time and boats in motion.”
Its success rate has been reduced by the military actions and the
presence of private security, to the point that from may 2012 Somali
pirates do not have able to hijack a vessel that allows them to collect a
ransom. In the Gulf of Guinea assaults occur throughout the year and
preferably overnight, with moored boats and without ability to perform
evasive maneuvers. They have a success rate of 80%. The modus operandi
is also different: the kidnappings in Somalia are long and end in
negotiation and rescue, while in the Gulf of Guinea quick kidnappings
with theft of crude oil are produced to be sold on the black market. The
value of the load of the vessel can be overcome to a bailout. I think
that there is a decline in piracy in both contexts, but it is true that
we work with inaccurate figures. There is no actual data from pirate
attacks in Somalia and the Gulf of Guinea. In the latter case, because
only one of every three incidents, given the mistrust in the local
authorities, who fail to respond to 80% of the requests for help, and
the economic cost of the complaint reports. Also influences the fact
that complaints result in higher insurance premiums for shipping
From a purely military perspective and security analysis left
multiple variables out of the equation of African piracy. In Nigeria,
unemployment and poverty, the corruption of local authorities and the
demands of activists and people of the Niger Delta, who demand
compensation for environmental damage suffered by their lands and
waters, and increased participation in the wealth of the oil that
generates the gigantic country governing Goodluck Jonathan.
The document Communities not criminals
focuses on the environmental degradation of the Delta by the refined
processes and consumption of oil, in the hands of the local population.
Robbery and this oil treatment contribute, together with the inadequate
maintenance of foreign oil pipelines, to the destruction of fisheries
and Agriculture and the abandonment of the common work in the region.
Fishermen and farmers are forced to join the illegal to survive oil
business. In addition, the lack of public services and the State care
and the shortage of fuel resulting in the breakdown of the social
contract and are reasons that local communities offered to engage in a
business that reduces to zero the ecological, economic and human
possibilities in the area.
The Chatham House report portrays a spacious and networks with
multiple cells collaborative decentralized which bring together a
hodgepodge of political elite, militants and activists connected, armed
criminal groups and senior members of the army with the support of the
local population. It is going at the same time, weaving a plot of
justifications to these criminal actions, which would have a character
“economically rational, politically necessary, morally defensible and
Regional cooperation as a solution.
The European military authorities do not hide their disappointment in
the case of Nigeria. We are not talking about a failed state like
Somalia, where foreign naval operations have carte blanche. The area of
the Gulf of Guinea countries show their reluctance to direct foreign
intervention: especially the Nigerian giant, which is postulated as the
military arm of the economic community of West Africa (ECOWAS) and new
economic power after the emergency BRIC States.
“In the case of the Gulf of Guinea, is committed to regional
cooperation – says Fernando Ibáñez – Las Nigeria-benin of Operation
prosperity joint patrols have reduced the number of attacks in the area
of Cotonou and there are a number of initiatives that follow the wake of
the Djibouti code of conduct, such as the Declaration of Yaoundé”.
The initiatives of African regional and political blocks, although
weighted muddled by bureaucratic and suspicions, embrace, at least on
paper, a global vision of the problem. They include measures purely
police as night patrols or an immediate response, together with judicial
measures or intelligence force and, above all, a battery of policies to
attack the root causes of violence: bad governance and corruption, lack
of transparency in the oil industry, environmental degradation, poverty
Vanda Felbab-Brown’s report points in the same direction:
strengthening the capacity of the security forces and collaboration on
issues of intelligence which stresses, can only succeed if the countries
of the region “embark on a determined and systematic effort to repair
the deep shortcomings of the presence of the State in its coastal
territories and the marginalization of the people there”. Something that
would include effective police forces, not perceived as violent or
predatory by the population, nor politicised; the expansion of legal
economic opportunities and working with the human capital of the Gulf of
However, the presidential elections are approaching and Nigerian political environment is gradually thinning.
The pirates are not part of the public debate, but are unmistakable
symptom of the denouncing intellectuals such as Wole Soyinka or Chinua
Achebe and evils that afflict a society weakened, insecure and without
ability to drive real change from below.
The pirates in the Gulf of Guinea will not cause social alert that
led to Somali pirates. There also seems to be a real will to tackle
illegal activities that revolve around the Nigerian crude oil, nor by
the Government of the country and by Western and African partners. But
it is the tip of the iceberg in a context of growing economic and social
inequalities, widespread corruption, neglect of the State and a growing
malaise that already broke out with #OccupyNigeria and that doesn’t go away.
#OccupyNigeria arrived in wings of the Elimination of a subsidy to
the oil. Like almost everything in Nigerian land, it has to do with
crude oil, corruption and the gap between rich and poor.
The original article, with images and videos, can be read and watched here.