Lagos Historical Review

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Piracy and Nigeria’s National Security in the Early 21st Century

Edmund Chilaka


Pirate attacks against ocean liners, coastal shipping and travellers along Nigeria’s inland waterways have  increased since the end of the civil war in 1970. Advancements in boating technology and navigation,  small arms availability and telecommunications have aided the sophistication of Nigerian pirates just as the calibre of culprits has grown from canoe operators and fishermen to include well connected drug   runners, oil thieves and oil-pipeline vandals. Threats to Nigeria’s national security are not only economic or socio-political but, even possibly, existential, since oil exports, which yield 20% of GDP, 95% of foreign exchange earnings, and 65% of budgetary revenues were strongly resisted by the militants in 2006, for example. The nexus between insecurity and oil production is not peculiar to Nigeria but can be explained by the “natural resource curse” thesis or the “paradox of plenty” whereby developing countries  with abundant mineral resources exhibit systemic corruption, weak government structures, armed conflict and political instability and lag behind in economic growth and living standards than countries with fewer resources. Thus, increased pirate attacks were deployed to back up agitations for resource control  and political autonomy by Niger Delta activists. Despite the Government’s antipiracy efforts and  orchestrated collaborations between the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Navy, Nigeria witnessed the “resource war” and “petro-aggression” common in other similarly afflicted countries like Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Chad, Sudan and Angola. Using key informant  interviews, information from government agencies, newspapers and magazine articles, in addition to internet research, we found that public scepticism trailed heightened antipiracy policymaking. The recommendations to build stronger law enforcement institutions and address longstanding issues of remediation to the environment and compensation for victims of oil spillage were found to be more populist, more just and futuristic than appeasement of ex-militants. In conclusion, national security and the trend of piracy in the new millennium are likely to be moderated by improvements in law enforcement presence, firepower and the impact of corporate social responsibility by IOCs and associated  stakeholders in the oil-rich delta region and the Lagos axis.
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