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US Coast Guard/Chinese Navy in Nigeria and Dangers of Downgrading Obvious Red-flag



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Just barely two weeks the Chinese Warship with over 700 military officers landed in the Gulf of Guinea with a purported port call in Nigeria, the US Coast Guard also came visiting to undertake what they described as “a peer review of the Nigerian Maritime Domain.”

Lt. Cdr. Jonna L. Clouse who led the team from the US Coast Guard to Nigeria disclosed while on a working visit to the headquarters of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), that “The United States Coast Guard is committed to Nigeria’s quest to implementing the International Ships and Ports Security (ISPS) Facility Code in line with acceptable global best practice.”

She noted that engaging NIMASA on a constant basis is to ensure more Ports and Jetties in the country implement ISPS Code, thus enhancing safety of the entire Nigerian maritime domain.

“We are in Nigeria to assess the level of compliance with the International Ships and Ports Security (ISPS) Facility Code. Our desire is to enhance cooperation between the Nigerian maritime sector and the United States Coast Guard. We will also offer our expertise to NIMASA in closing identified gaps. We hope to work with NIMASA and reduce or end the Conditions of Entry regime for Vessels from Nigeria to the United States”, she said.

Lt. Cdr. Clouse further commended the NIMASA Management for efforts made in cooperating with the US Coast Guard.

It may be recalled that in 2013, NIMASA was appointed as the Designated Authority for the administration of the ISPS Code in Nigeria. The visit of the US Coast Guard is supposed to be part of the assessment processes in monitoring compliance level, while enhancing cooperation and Peer Review exercise.

The Director General of NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh, who believes that due to the dynamism of maritime threats and patterns, said “NIMASA has been fortunate to have peer review partners that create avenues for developing capacities needed for effective ISPS Code implementation.”

And as earlier said in one of my commentaries, it would have been okay to just take wholeheartedly the explanations given by both the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA on the visits by both the Chinese and US military to the Southwest African coast and Nigeria in particular but for the obvious blurred ‘Ahoy’ and the known fact that in diplomatic practice especially the defence and security aspect of it, there’s usually the “stated” and then the “latent” objectives.

ALSO READ: Chinese warship in Nigeria/Gulf of Guinea: Not mere port call

There is a pattern in this scramble to have US and Chinese military presence in Nigeria that cannot be ignored by concerned citizens. The Chinese military ported in our domain and preferred to deal with the Nigerian Navy. The Americans came a week or two after but preferred to deal with Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

Anyone who says the relationship preference of the two world powers (America and China) does not matter obviously is oblivious of tits and bits of global security/power and its balancing.

There is something very obvious. The Chinese military sidelining NIMASA and preferring to deal with the Nigerian Navy may not be unconnected with the fact that the United States through AFRICOM is already dealing with NIMASA especially in the Deep Blue Project. And the chances of the two contending world powers working with the same agency in Nigeria and throughout the Gulf of Guinea states is near-zero.

The scenario playing out in the Nigerian maritime domain should be of serious concern to our leaders in government and the military. We cannot have the United States and China flaunt their military might in our backyard and you say it doesn’t matter. It matters o!

First as far as there is a military/political and economic supremacy tussle between the two contending buccaneers who keep showing everywhere across the world that they can never agree to work together, the safety and security of our maritime domain and the entire Gulf of Guinea region will continue to be undermined as these two powers will do everything possible to undermine each other’s interests in the gulf.

This may explain why despite all the efforts by the Gulf of Guinea states in addition to international supports to checkmate the rising safety and security issues in the region, piracy, Drugs and arms running and crude oil theft instead of decreasing has continued to rise in the region.

And it has been alleged that over 95 percent of crude oil stolen from Nigerian facilities including those being stolen by foreign operators in our shallow, deep and ultra-deep offshore arenas end up in China and USA. And AFRICOM being in that arena has done little or nothing to help Nigeria and some other gulf states checkmate the activities of rogue oil tankers.

The Gulf of Guinea – a major shipping route stretching 5,700 kilometres (over 3,500 miles) from Senegal to Angola – has long been at risk from piracy with international criminal gangs carrying out most attacks on foreign shipping vessels including oil tankers from Nigeria.

A good percentage of the oil imported into the West and even East (China) come from the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola and Katanga province of DR Congo are all oil producing. Cameroon in addition to its marginal production serves as the most critical terminus of a pipeline that drains oil from Chad.

The region, mostly Angola and Nigeria, is among China’s top oil suppliers. Major Chinese oil explorer CNOOC Ltd also engages in deep-sea production off the coast of Nigeria (in the same Gulf of Guinea).

So the Gulf of Guinea is where the concern lies and the power tussle between China and United States is the main issue here.

China is already eyeing Equatorial Guinea and/or Nigeria as likely international base(s) for its military. Meanwhile, the United States is already firmly seated in the Gulf with its AFRICOM initiative. Russia is also somewhere at the eastern flank of the Gulf using their investment at the Aluminium Smelter Plant at Ikot Abasi as an alibi.

Last year, U.S. defence officials said they were worried that a Chinese base in the Gulf could threaten U.S. national security. The question is: U.S. national security in their country or in Southwest Africa?

And this is where the real issue lies: escalating tension in the gulf by over-militarising the region. This has dire consequences and the implications of these two opposing superpowers having military bases in the region have to be taken seriously. This is in addition to the covert Russian (business) interest on the eastern flank of the Gulf of Guinea at the Opobo Channel axis.

Another area that should be of concern to our leaders is sheepishly allowing China and the United States shift their supremacy battle ground to the Gulf of Guinea. The two bulldogs barking at each other in our backyard is definitely not going to be pleasant for our welfare and wellbeing as a nation especially with the kind of people we have in the governments of the gulf states particularly Nigeria.

The relationship between the two opposing foreign military can better be managed if they are made to deal or rather report to one desk in our national security infrastructure rather than allowing the present situation that is likely to be inimical to our national interests. We can still make this happen! God bless Nigeria!

(IFEANYI IZEZE writes from Abuja: [email protected]; 234-8033043009)

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