“Even Marine Police Armed Guards Are No Longer Legal in Nigerian Waters”
By Ilias Papadopoulos
Master in International Relations & Strategic Studies
This past week we had a very significant development in Nigeria. That is the ban of all security personnel, both private (already the case anyway) and state provided, on board vessels operating in Nigerian waters and its EEZ.
To take matters from the top, Nigeria never allowed the employment of PMSCs on board vessels operating in its waters and gives the alternative of employing locally provided guards from their Joint Task Force (JTF – a unit composed of Navy and Coast Guard personnel) or the Coast Guard (Marine Police). The measure by itself has attracted negative feedback worldwide since these forces are largely poor in equipment, training and motivation. An indicator of that was the death of a seafarer and the injury of another, when the Nigerian security personnel blindly opened fire on pirates that boarded their vessel earlier this year.
Last week this changed with the Nigerian Navy boarding a vessel and arresting the JTF members on board. The official claim from the Navy was that it solely has jurisdiction in Nigerian territorial waters and EEZ, while JTF should provide security only in the coastline and in the rivers of Niger Delta which themselves are rife with piracy. From now on vessels operating in the region can have no armed marine police on board whatsoever in case they might seek for security they should address only to the Nigerian Navy which will provide them with escort vessels.
Needless to say that this adds another issue to the already problematic situation with maritime security in the area and contributes to maintain the confusion and the huge security vacuum existed. Remains to see how things will evolve but the further increase of piracy incidents seems inevitable in a region that serves as one of the main pirate hotspots at a worldwide level.