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Gulf of Guinea Update

June 2nd 2017
A slightly calmer period in the Gulf of Guinea in May, with few incidents reported towards the end of the month in Nigerian waters. However, May saw at least six crew kidnapped from one vessel off the Delta, as pirates continue to pursue kidnap and ransom as a preferred crime compared to hijacking oil tankers. Until the oil price increases and makes selling stolen crude profitable, it is likely this business model will continue.


Violent approaches continue to be the standard in the region, with small arms fire often damaging vessels in an attempt to intimidate crew and force the ship to slow or stop, allowing attackers on board. Thankfully, the majority of ship boardings occurred after crew had taken refuge in citadels, meaning attackers were ‘only’ able to rob the ships of equipment and crew personal belongings.


While still upsetting, this is at least preferable to captivity with a pirate gang.


After months of peace ashore, militants in the Niger Delta are beginning to lose patience with the Federal Government and their promises to improve the situation for locals and re-institute amnesty payments to former militants. An attack in May on a gas pipe owned by the government highlighted the ongoing risk to oil and gas companies operating in the region.


An escalation in hostilities is still possible, given the delay in creating the modular refineries promised to leaders in the region. These modular refineries would then allow the Delta’s oil thieves to operate on a semi-legitimate basis, while apparently absolving them of their crimes. To outsiders, this may seem like madness, but we’re sure the Nigerian government knows what it’s doing…


The more quickly programmes such as this come on line and offer the restive former militants economic opportunities, the better for the stability of the region.


Other potential threats in the Delta come via the herdsmen who continue to engage in sporadic gunfights with Delta residents. While relatively unpublicized, the herdsmen have historically accounted for more killings in Nigeria than Boko Haram terrorists. Their attempts to force Delta residents from their lands in order to take them over for cattle have seen significant bloodshed and militant groups in the region continue to issue threats against them.


At sea, the Cameroon and Nigerian Navies have engaged with other regional partners in anti-piracy efforts and the Nigerian government’s promise to invest millions of dollars in maritime patrol aircraft will at least go some way to reassuring the shipping and oil industries that some efforts to maintain security are being attempted.