News / Africa

Piracy Soars in West African Waters

U.S. sailors and Nigerian special forces during a Feb. 13, 2010 training exercise off the Nigerian coast, where the U.S. offered training to combat piracy along the West African coast.
U.S. sailors and Nigerian special forces during a Feb. 13, 2010 training exercise off the Nigerian coast, where the U.S. offered training to combat piracy along the West African coast.
Heather Murdock
The pirate business is booming off the coast of Nigeria.

There were 27 attacks in Nigerian waters last year, compared to 10 the year before, according to the International Maritime Bureau.  
 
Numbers like that make West African waters among the most dangerous in the world, second only to the coast of Somalia, which recorded nearly 70 attacks last year, despite a drastic reduction in piracy.

Dangerous waters

Attacks in West Africa’s waters are very different from those off the coast of Somalia, according to International Maritime Bureau Director Pottengal Mukundan.    
 
In Somalia, people are held hostage for ransom. In West Africa, it's all about moving product.
 
“The most serious cases are those in which tankers-product tankers are hijacked in order to steal a part of the cargo," Mukundan says. "And this operation takes about seven to 10 days, after which the ship and the crew are released. And in order to steal the cargo, they will hijack the ship and take it to a pre-determined location where another, smaller tanker is waiting, and the cargo is transferred from the hijacked tanker to the smaller vessel.”  

This is not to say piracy is safe in West Africa, where ships are usually boarded at gunpoint. Two people were killed in attacks last year.  

Limited resources

Mukundan believes authorities can stop these kind of attacks without endangering the crew.
 
“The position of these vessels can be determined without too much difficulty with aerial surveillance, for example," he says. "And then the navy or the police forces can go in and catch the pirates after the hijacked vessel has been released so there is no risk to the hostages.”  

The Nigerian navy has caught a few gangs of pirates but is the only operational policing force in the Gulf of Guinea.

Other coastal states lack the capacity and the equipment to fight pirates in far offshore attacks, according to Mukundan.  
 
The International Maritime Bureau blames the increased piracy on the lack of naval resources in the gulf.

Big money

However, some Nigerians blame the problem on growing discontent in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
 
Jackson Timiyan, who heads a national youth group with a large presence in the Niger Delta, says young men turn to piracy because they are poor and out of work.
 
“The prime cause of maritime piracy is joblessness," Timiyan says. "Most of them that participate in this, they are participating as a means of the only way they can survive.”

Piracy can be big money.

A single haul in the Gulf of Guinea can be worth more than  $1 million. Timiyan says impoverished, out-of-work pirates don't stay poor long.
 
“Some of them, once they got such money, will buy jeep upon jeep, fleets of cars here and there," he says.

Growing anger

However, other locals say piracy is not just about money.

At his welding workshop in the beleaguered Niger Delta oil city, Warri, Cross Ebikosore, says some pirates today were militants like him in the past decade.  

At the time, local armed groups attacked foreign and government oil interests, demanding a share of the wealth.
 
With most of the Niger Delta’s 31 million people living on less than a dollar a day, the uprising gained some popularity. It eventually ended, with the government granting amnesty to tens of thousands of militants.  

That amnesty was supposed to come with jobs and poverty alleviation, which  has not happened, Ebikosore says, and former militants are growing angry.
 
Ebikosore says former militants have turned to piracy because they feel they were tricked into turning in their weapons in the first place, according to Ebikosore.  

He believes the only way to stop crime off the coast of Nigeria, is to provide other opportunities for coastal Nigerians.

Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from the Niger Delta.

You May Like

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid