Member-states of the African Union on Saturday signed an African Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development in Lome, Togo and some of the 35 African leaders present at the one-day summit hailed the move as an economic positive for the continent’s marine endowments.
According to Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, 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.
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 per cent 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.
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.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia while addressing the summit, said: “Liberia whole heartily accept the adoption and signing of the Charter; Liberia would have already signed and will continue to work with all of those in promoting our collective efforts to improve the coordination and improvement of all its activities related to maritime and water waves”.
The Liberian leader said the time spent in Lome could not have been more auspicious for Africa to come together to celebrate history and chart a new course that will not only induce stability and security to our maritime environment, but also spread our collective development.
President Sirleaf furthered – it is critical that the African effort will ensure the safety, security and development of sea, erosion and water waves a d added that concerns must be shown towards landlocked countries stressing; “While a vast number of Members States of our continental groupings may have access to the sea, the consideration of landlocked countries should be articulated in the Charter so that they don’t lose out on the benefit of the framework”.
“It is a historic decision in the history of our continent, which is facing an upsurge of maritime piracy,” she added. She said “This Charter aims at preventing and curbing national and transnational crime, especially terrorism, piracy and armed robbery against ships, as well as all forms of trafficking at sea; also aims at protecting environment in general and particularly maritime environment in coastal and island states, as well as strengthening cooperation in the field; and the Charter commits signatories to creating national, regional and continental institutions to promote maritime security and safety.