Nigeria says countries around the Gulf of Guinea should work together to make the region safer.  Gunmen, allegedly from Nigeria, attacked Equatorial Guinea's presidential palace, last week.  The Gulf of Guinea has seen persistent acts of piracy, in recent years. 

Nigerian Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe says last week's assault on Equatorial Guinea's presidential palace was a wake-up call for countries in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea to join forces to deal with armed groups out to destabilize the region.

"Militants are attacking us.  Are they not?  Are Niger Delta militants not attacking institutions of the federal government?  All the countries within the Gulf of Guinea are being affected, in one way or the other, which strength of credence to the need for the Gulf of Guinea guards' scheme.  So, we all share the same vulnerabilities and we must work together to confront the challenge against each one of us," said Maduekwe.

The authorities in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, on the west coast of Africa, had accused the gunmen who took part in last Tuesday's sea-borne attack of being member of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, a Nigerian militant group.

MEND, which regularly attacks oil facilities in southern Nigeria, saying it is fighting for a greater share of the region's oil resource, has denied any involvement.  The group says the Nigerian government was behind the strike.  The government has rejected the claim and issued a strong denunciation of the assault.

Security analysts and diplomats warn that shipping and oil operations in the Gulf of Guinea are under serious threat, following an increase in the number of daring attacks in waters off West Africa.  Criminal gangs in speed boats have launched raids on targets in neighboring countries.

The International Maritime Bureau says more than 100 pirate attacks occurred off West Africa in 2008.  West African navies are ill-equipped to protect shipping and to fight off the non-state actors, such as mercenaries.

The Gulf of Guinea holds growing strategic importance as a result of its substantial under-exploited oil and gas reserves.