By Ismaila Chafe, Abuja.
President Muhammmadu Buhari has appealed to member states of the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) to remit their outstanding Annual Assessed Contributions to the GGC Secretariat to meet the Commission’s objectives.
The president made the appeal at a virtual meeting of the Heads of State and Government of member states of the GGC, convened to review progress on efforts to deal with the maritime challenges in the region.
The Gulf of Guinea Commission is an international body which was established by the treaty signed in Libreville, Gabon, on July 3, 2001 by comprising Angola, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, and Sao Tome and Principe.
Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo joined the Commission in 2008.
Membership of the Gulf of Guinea Commission is open to other states in the Gulf of Guinea region for the purpose of transforming the sub-region into a zone of peace and security.
Buhari said that the continued non-payment of dues by majority of the member states had greatly affected the ability of the Commission to fulfil the mandate for which it was established in 2001.
He stressed that the inability of member states to pay their assessed contributions was threatening the continued existence of the Commission.
The president also called for urgent collective action against the dangers and threats affecting maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea Region.
According to him, Nigeria considers the effective functioning of the GGC as strategic to the collective security interest of the Gulf region, particularly in addressing criminal issues.
Buhari said that such issues included piracy, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, protection of marine resources, and irregular migration to the region.
“As a demonstration of our firm commitment towards the repositioning of the GGC into a more vibrant organisation that will effectively deliver on its mandate, Nigeria hosted the 4th Ordinary Summit of the Assembly of Heads of States and Government of the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) from Nov. 21 to Nov. 23, 2017, in Abuja.
“In addition, Nigeria hosted the 11th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the Gulf of Guinea in Abuja from Nov. 19 to Nov. 20, 2019, as part of our efforts to revitalise the activities of the Commission.
“These sessions observed, inter alia, that non-payment of assessed contributions by a majority of the GGC member states to support the Commission’s operational budget has seriously affected the effective delivery of the organisation’s mandate.
“Meanwhile, Nigeria has championed several efforts towards fighting maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea,’’ he said.
The president said that in June 2019, Nigeria’s National Assembly passed the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act, 2019 (POMO Act), which aimed at preventing and suppressing piracy, armed robbery and any other unlawful acts against ships.
Buhari pledged that Nigeria would continue to deploy significant resources toward tackling piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said: “Through the Deep Blue Project in June 2021, the government of Nigeria unveiled 195 million dollar-worth of boats, vehicles and aircraft to spearhead the country’s fight against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The operational mechanisms in the Gulf of Guinea region, as you know, are similar to those in some other regional organisations.
“For instance, ECOWAS and ECCAS have adopted protocols on the security of their maritime domains and also set up regional centres for maritime security respectively.”
The Nigerian leader, therefore, stressed the need for the GGC to adopt a collaborative strategy to engage partners and donors in creating awareness of the objectives of the organisation.
This, he said, was with a view to synergizing for more effective results toward fighting maritime insecurity in the GGC region.
“As Your Excellencies are aware, another challenge that confronted the organisation in its fight against maritime insecurity in the region is the COVID-19 global pandemic and its attendant negative impact on the activities of the Gulf of Guinea Commission in 2020 and early 2021.
“What we need now is to work more than ever towards the revitalisation of the organisation by holding regular meetings and summits of the Commission,” he maintained.
The president also expressed his profound gratitude to fellow Heads of State for the support from all member states during his tenure as Chair of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the GGC.
“This summit marks the end of my chairmanship and will also be my last summit in the Gulf of Guinea as Head of State.
“As we decide on the next Chairmanship, I am confident that I am bequeathing a revitalised Commission.
“I, therefore, urge you to extend the same support and solidarity I enjoyed during my tenure to my successor, to ensure continuity in our efforts and commitment to address the challenges of our organisation,” he said.
Buhari congratulated Amb. Florentina Ukonga, the Executive Secretary of the GGC, and her team for their hard work and commitment, not only towards the organisation of the summit but also to running the organisation effectively.
He acknowledged the great work done by the outgoing Executive Committee, led by Ukonga, in spite of the paucity of funds which the committee had been grappling with.
The president expressed hope that the virtual summit would yield fruitful results that would move the organisation forward.
President Nana Akuffo-Ado of Ghana emerged as the new President of GGC at the end of the summit.