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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid