The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) with support from the European Union (EU) has organized an information sharing and coordination meeting on regional efforts to address the challenges of maritime security, illegal fishing and organised crime in West Africa. The two-day meeting, which opened on the 6th of May 2019 in Abuja, Nigeria, brought together stakeholders of maritime security in ECOWAS Member States and Mauritania.
The meeting was organised by the Support to West Africa Integrated Maritime Security (SWAIMS) “Regional response against Maritime Criminality in the Gulf of Guinea” and West African Fisheries, Security and Control Support Project (PESCAO), all funded by the EU to combat maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea.
Speaking at the meeting, Mr. Kurt Cornelis, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS said supporting ECOWAS Member States in their efforts to bring maritime security and safety to the Gulf of Guinea remains a priority to the EU.
Mr. Cornelis emphasised that the EU Member States “share mutual interest in the region to ensure security and stability at sea and on land in order to preserve human security, good governance, trade and business in the region”.
Similarly, in his remarks, Gen. Francis Awagbè Béhanzin, the Commissioner of Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the ECOWAS Commission, highlighted that the meeting was part of the operationalisation of the Regional Maritime Security Architecture. He added that it is in line with the spirit of the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy (EIMS) as adopted by the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS in 2014 in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire.
The strategy according to Commissioner Béhanzin aims to make the Gulf of Guinea a common maritime domain free from piracy, armed robbery and other illicit acts committed at sea, in order to make citizens and member states benefit from the enormous resources that exist in the Atlantic Ocean.
Highlighting the importance of the crucial role fishing plays in the socio-economic development of the region, the Commissioner of Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Sékou Sangaré said that fish production in the region is estimated at 30 million tons, hence the need to secure the Gulf of Guinea.
Abuja, 7th May 2019