Nigeria and other member-states of the African Union yesterday signed an African Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development in Lome, Togo where the Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says without securing the Seas and Oceans, the continental 'blue economy,' would be jeopardised.
After signing for Nigeria, Prof. Osinbajo, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the well-attended summit noted that "the blue economy is one of the major areas of focus of the charter," adding that without security, the blue economy-reference for the huge economic activities and benefits derivable from around the waters-is jeopardized especially by such maritime crimes like piracy and smuggling.
"All of the economic activities that take place around the Seas and Oceans are jeopardized, if security is not assured. And that is one of the reasons that this Charter is devoted to ensuring security," Osinbajo noted over the weekend in Lome, where about 35 African leaders gathered in a one-day summit.
Speaking with reporters at the end of the summit, the Vice President noted for instance that the Gulf of Guinea and the Horn of Africa in particular "are areas where there had been a lot of piracy and in our case the Delta."
He explained that this is why Nigeria and other AU nations are devoted to the question of security of the oceans.
"The most important thing for us is that we are working with other members-states of the AU to ensure we are able to police the seas and our waters. To ensure that we are able to yield the maximum benefits from the blue economy and that is really why we are here, and so focused on this," according Vice President Osinbajo.
Continuing, he said the focus on the maritime issue is because "as we know 90% of African trade is by the Seas, so no matter how we slice it, this is absolutely important to us."
By signing the charter, African leaders intend to improve security off the coasts, and hope to inspire greater, coordinated economic activities and development.
The Charter is meant to ensure improved information-sharing between coastal countries and others in Africa, a gap pirates and smugglers have taken advantage of in their movements and operations on the African waters. Out of the 54 AU countries, 38 are coastal.
Observers say Africa could have lost as much as hundreds of billions in dollars due to unbridled activities of piracy and smuggling on the African waters in the past few decades.