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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid