Bulwark Intelligence

Maritime Security

INTELLIGENCE, Maritime Security, Nigeria, Reports

EVALUATING SAFETY STANDARDS AMIDST RISING BOAT CAPSIZING INCIDENTS ACROSS NIGERIA’S WATERWAYS

Introduction In the expansive tapestry of Nigeria’s geographical landscape, the intricate network of waterways, meandering over 8,000 kilometres (about 4970.97 mi) of rivers and coastlines, stands as a crucial conduit for the nation’s vibrant economy and diverse population. This, however, has metamorphosed into a wellspring of deep concern due to the surge in boat capsizing incidents. Examining this problem requires peeling back the layers to reveal the multifaceted factors contributing to this alarming rise. The uptick speaks not only to the inherent dangers faced by those navigating Nigeria’s waterways but also to systemic inadequacies in the safeguards meant to ensure the safety of passengers and crew. States like Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Adamawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Kano have witnessed a high rate of boat mishaps in recent times. Niger State has recorded over 10 boat incidents this year alone. The recent heart-wrenching tragedy in Niger State, where a boat, burdened with over 100 passengers, succumbed to the unforgiving waters, leaving dozens dead, once again thrust the matter of safety standards in Nigerian waters into the limelight. The incident, amongst others, necessitates a comprehensive exploration of the systemic issues contributing to this worrisome trend. It prompts questions about the efficacy of existing safety regulations, the enforcement mechanisms, and the resilience of the vessels navigating the nation’s waterways. Likely Causes An analysis of data furnished by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) reveals that since the start of 2023, over 260 Nigerians have died in various boat mishaps across the nation’s inland waterways. These troubling incidents, as elucidated by experts, could be linked to an array of factors including overloading, overspeeding, and pervasive non-compliance with established safety regulations. Overloading One of the most common causes of boat capsizing incidents is overloading. Boat operators, driven by the pressure to maximise profits, often cram more passengers and cargo onto their vessels than they are safely designed to carry. This destabilizes the boats, making them more susceptible to capsizing, especially in rough waters. Overspeeding Another major contributing factor is overspeeding. Boat operators, eager to meet tight schedules or simply seeking a thrill, often disregard speed limits, particularly in calmer waters. This reckless behaviour increases the risk of collisions with other boats or submerged objects, which can easily lead to capsizing. Lax Enforcement and Inadequate Safety Regulations The lack of strict enforcement of safety regulations further exacerbates the problem. NIWA, the agency responsible for regulating inland waterway transportation, faces challenges in effectively monitoring and enforcing safety standards across the vast network of waterways. Additionally, the existing safety regulations are often outdated and inadequate, failing to address the evolving nature of boat operations and the increasing complexity of waterways. Notable cases of boat capsize incidents in Nigeria A few of the incidents reported this year include; 14 June 2023- A boat capsized between Ebu and Dzakan village in Patigi local government area of Kwara state loaded with about 250 passengers out of which 106 people died. 9 September 2023- 10 persons died after a boat capsized on the Njuwa Lake, Rugange village, in the Yola South Local Government Area of Adamawa State. On 11 September, another boat accident claimed 11 lives in Gurin village in Fufore Local Government Area of the State. 2 October 2023- A boat carrying 50 people capsized in Yauri Local Government, Kebbi State with 40 passengers unaccounted for. 28 October 2023- A boat conveying 80 passengers capsized in Karim Lamido Local Government Area of Taraba, resulting in the death of 15 passengers. Addressing the Safety Imperative To combat the rising tide of boat capsizing incidents, a comprehensive approach is needed. These include Strict Enforcement of Safety Regulations: NIWA must be empowered with the resources and authority to effectively enforce safety regulations, including regular inspections, penalties for non-compliance, and the impounding of unsafe vessels. Existing safety regulations should be reviewed and updated to reflect the latest safety standards and address emerging challenges in boat operations. Enhanced Safety Awareness: Public awareness campaigns should be conducted to educate boat operators and passengers about safety precautions, such as proper loading practices, safe operating speeds, and the importance of using life jackets. Efforts should be made to promote the use of safer boat designs and construction materials, particularly for vessels operating in challenging waterways. Investing in Rescue Infrastructure: Adequate rescue infrastructure, including well-equipped rescue boats and trained personnel, should be readily available in strategic locations along waterways to swiftly respond to emergencies. The growing pattern of boat tragedies serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address safety concerns on Nigeria’s waterways. By implementing a holistic approach that addresses overloading, overspeeding, lax enforcement, and inadequate safety regulations, we can work towards a future where the waterways that sustain Nigeria’s economy and connect its communities are also safe and reliable.  

CURATED OSINT, Maritime Security, Nigeria, Reports, SECURITY THREATS

NAVIGATING TROUBLED WATERS: MARITIME SMUGGLING AND ILLICIT ACTIVITIES IN NIGERIA

Introduction There has been a significant shift in criminal activities along the Nigerian maritime landscape in recent years, with smugglers adapting to the evolving enforcement strategies of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and other maritime security agencies. Criminals have built syndicates that have dominated the waterways and open sea highlighting the impact of piracy and smuggling. Due to this, illegal activities have increased along waterways, posing a serious threat to maritime security and necessitating reevaluation of enforcement measures. Smugglers’ Tactics Smugglers have relocated their operations to the waterways because of intensified customs operations on land, according to investigations. Contraband goods en route to Nigeria now often follow a circuitous route, being shipped to neighbouring countries within the sub-region. These illicit cargoes are then transported at night or during the day on clandestine jetties scattered throughout Lagos waterways and other Niger Delta states. Criminal Backing Particularly worrying about these activities is the allegations of these smugglers being overlooked by corrupt influential figures in the military, government and diplomatic circles. These criminal syndicates, pirates etc are not only well organised but also heavily armed. The alleged corrupt alliance presents a serious challenge to the efforts of law enforcement agencies to combat these illegal acts. Customs’ Battle on the High Seas The Customs Area Controller, Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone A, Hussein Ejibunu, highlighted the gravity of the situation when, in June this year, a truckload of Indian Hemp was intercepted in the Lekki area of Lagos state. The contraband was offloaded from a boat originating from Ghana. However, in a brazen display of criminal sophistication, five out of the six trucks loaded with the smuggled goods managed to evade customs operatives in the darkened Lekki expanse. This highlights the continued efforts displayed by security operatives, however, there are loopholes in the execution of these operations. Kidnappings and Localized Threats The maritime challenges extend to local waters, with criminals often referred to as ‘pirates’ and operating within the Niger Delta and Lagos waterways. Kidnapping for ransom and attacks on local cruise ships are common, directly threatening the security of local communities in the region. Although there was a notable drop in maritime kidnapping activities as of October 2023 due to the rebound of oil prices amidst the Ukraine and Russia war, the threats persist. Diverse Criminal Activities and Rising Threats Recently, reports have shed light on the intricate web of smuggling routes, revealing that approximately 90% of Indian hemp in the country enters through the West African sub-region. This is facilitated by the substance’s legal status in many French-speaking countries within the region, providing smugglers with a seemingly seamless passage into Nigeria. The rise of smuggling is not limited to contraband. Criminal organizations use various methods to smuggle Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as gasoline, into neighbouring countries. The porous nature of the nearly 800 km-long border has made it difficult to deal with the illegal movement of fuel, drugs, people and foreign goods. OPERATION WATER GUARD: A Strategic Initiative In response to the increasing maritime threats, OPERATION WATER GUARD by the Western Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy was initiated in the border areas of Benin Republic focusing on the waters of Badagry in Lagos and parts of Ogun state. The objective of the operation launched on 9 November 2023 is to make Nigerian waters and borders inaccessible to maritime pirates and smugglers. The operation uses intelligence-led research to supplement existing checkpoints and improve their oversight. The current increase in crime on maritime routes demands immediate and strategic response. Strengthening maritime security requires cooperation between different agencies. from Customs and the Navy to intelligence agencies. Shared intelligence and enhanced surveillance capabilities can help break the networks that facilitate these illegal activities. Navigating Troubled Waters Amidst End of the Year Festivities As Nigeria faces multifaceted maritime security challenges, there is a need for concerted and determined efforts to protect its waters. Ongoing security operations which are commendable initiatives, highlights the need for continued flexibility and cooperation between all security agencies. The approaching holiday season brings concerns about the possibility of a decline in security activities along waterways. According to trend analysis, concentrated efforts and deployment of security forces across different states are anticipated during festive periods on land, which could exacerbate the threat posed by criminal groups on the sea. As the country faces this critical alert, addressing the root causes and strengthening safety measures are essential for a safer maritime environment.

CRIME, CURATED OSINT, ECONOMIC INTELLIGENCE, Maritime Security, Nigeria, Reports

UNRAVELING OIL THEFT AND ITS IMPACT ON THE NATION’S ECONOMY

In light of the recent spike in oil losses, the Nigerian economy is currently in desperate need of resuscitation and restructuring. Reports indicate that between 300,000 and 400,000 barrels of oil are lost each year due to illicit theft and the government’s incapacity to control the operations of local criminal syndicates and separatists militants operating within the Niger Delta. However, analysis and claims by the Chief of Naval Staff contradicts the impractical evaluation owing to the distinction between the strategic terms which stipulates oil losses happen when there is known output, particularly during shut-ins and forced circumstances, preventing the Federal Government from earning the revenue it should while oil theft involves siphoning crude oil from vandalized pipes into ships by criminals involved in oil bunkering. The case of oil theft and oil losses seeks to unveil the disparities in the oil producing process as it remains unrealistic for the transportation of the unspecified amount of stolen crude oil without being noticed owing to the significant presence of security forces tasked with monitoring the Maritime border areas. An alarming example is the arrest of oil thieves on a  3-million-barrel-capacity MV HEROIC IDUN, a supertanker which  fled from Nigeria’s AKPO oilfield when its activities were uncovered by operatives of the Nigerian Navy. This indicated renewed collaboration among Gulf of Guinea countries, it also unveiled an interwoven criminal web with various culprits which is what we find at the end of the short stick of a $300 million loss within if the ship was not discovered. From irregularities within the chain of command and documentation procedure to the unspecified figures in ascertaining the exact loss, the oil theft and losses the nation suffers is a tragedy in itself. In hindsight, the allegation made by the President of Nigeria following an interview with Bloomberg on  21 June 2022 which linked the vandalism and Oil theft to the activities of IPOB and its affiliation with international criminal bodies which has led to an upsurge in insecurity within the Oil producing states may seem far fetched and overestimated. This evaluation does not vindicate IPOB activities which has impacted the state of security within the Southern part of the country, however, the consistent losses reveals a more intricate and complex deficiency in the governing bodies, high level security operatives and structures which have enabled a lax and easy access for collaborations with local and international criminal syndicates within the Niger Delta. An unintentional disparity exists between the actions of separatist groups that dates back to the founding of the country and the struggle for control of the resources in some regions of Nigeria. The belief that the distribution of resources does not match the distribution of revenue within the nation’s budgeting system is one of the foundation for the emergence of separatist groups from an economic standpoint.This has proven problematic because Nigeria depends largely on the extraction of oil, which is the main natural resource present in the country’s south and southeast, notably the oil producing states which consist; Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Imo, Ondo and Rivers state. Nigeria produces 8% of OPEC’s total daily production and 3% of the world’s volume, making it the world’s 12th largest petroleum producer on the global market (NNPC, 2000). However, the country suffers the greatest loss in petroleum resources as a result of oil theft and oil losses within the Niger Delta region of the nation. According to estimates, 15% of Nigeria’s daily 2.4 million barrels of oil are stolen. Oil theft, or “bunkering,” happens majorly within the Niger Delta area, however, unaccountability of security forces tasked with protecting the nations reserves and the upsurges in oil theft in recent times goes beyond monetary value and the loss in revenue as another troubling issue remains the health risks to residents. Residents and local governing structures fail to understand that accountability cuts across all the regulatory bodies, as more areas are at risk of the health hazard attributed to pollution from soot and the destruction of the ecosystem which has a long lasting impact. This remains a case of encouraging the small fires and watching the house burn while blaming the flames and not taking actions, at this rate, the responsibility cuts across every actor on the board. Furthermore, it is agonizing to reveal that in the era of advanced technology which Saudi Arabia has employed in regulating and monitoring crude oil production, our process remains rudimentary for a country where 95% of export revenues is dependent on oil production and the fourth-lowest percentage of all government revenue are derived from oil. In Mexico, which produces a comparable amount of oil, just 5,000 to 10,000 barrels are stolen daily. Given this development, it would be reasonable to infer that the fear of Oil theft would be the main factor affecting the nation’s economy and security; nevertheless, this assumption is invalidated by the loopholes within the oil producing sector highlighting the dismissal of the President’s allegations by IPOB members, claiming an underlying scheme involving high profile individuals and governing bodies in the saga of the ‘’Mysterious case of the stolen oil reserves’’. The attention has shifted away from the root of the unrest connected to the nation’s riches due to the agitations from concerned citizens. Although militancy has significantly impacted the South South and South Eastern parts of the country, it is within the best interest for the nation at large if the focus is placed on the right questions which may include: Who are the major high level players involved in the oil theft cartel? However, the separatists ideology, which is ingrained in the mind of some minorities and the demand for “resource control” by local activists, has stirred significant tension overtime, It is undeniable that the insecurity in the southern region has an impact on the Niger Delta which is the most noteworthy oil supply source. From the militancy threat to unbalanced records and crooked officials, there has been a virtual progression from where the indication

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