Pirates kidnap Danish vessel’s crew in Gulf of Guinea

A Danish ship – the Monjasa Reformer, was boarded by pirates offshore Congo on Saturday March 25, and later found on Thursday March 30 off the coast of Sao Tome and Principe in the Gulf of Guinea by the French Navy vessel, Premier Maître L’Her. 

It is believed 5 armed attackers boarded the vessel whilst it was idling roughly 140NM west of Pointe Noire, Congo before hijacking the tanker, with some reports saying they were heading for Nigeria. 

The French naval vessel received a distress message on Thursday evening from Monjasa Reformer having earlier located her using an aerial drone which showed the pirate’s vessel still alongside. The vessel was approximately 90nm south of Bonny, Nigeria and the distress message indicated that 6 crew members had been kidnapped. 

“The rescued crew members are all in good health and safely located in a secure environment and receiving proper attention following these dreadful events,” Monjasa said in a statement. It was later reported 3 of the remaining crew had suffered minor injuries which were treated onboard.

“Our thoughts are with the crew members still missing and their families during this stressful period,” Monjasa said, adding that it was “working closely with the local authorities” to ensure the sailors’ safe return. The owner said there was no reported damage to the vessel or cargo.

The shipowner said the crew had initially notified the company that manages the vessel that pirates had boarded and that the entire crew, believed to number 16, was safe in the tanker’s citadel, “in accordance with the onboard anti-piracy emergency protocol”. It said communications were then lost.

No details have been released on the nationality or rank of the kidnapped crew as at the time of this report. Monjasa Reformer was escorted to Lomé, Togo by the French Navy vessel.

Read more here.

First Maritime Green Corridor to launch in Africa?

For the first time in Africa, a new consortium will explore the options for developing a maritime green corridor for the zero-emission shipping of iron ore between South Africa and Europe. Maritime green corridors are routes between major port hubs where zero-emission solutions are supported and demonstrated. They have become recognised as one of the most important tools to aid industry and governments in the decarbonization of the maritime sector.

The consortium brings together Anglo American, Tata Steel, CMB, VUKA Marine, Freeport Saldanha, and ENGIE, convened by the Global Maritime Forum, to assess how zero-emission shipping could work. The consortium of iron ore miners and shippers, the steel industry, shipowners, freeport operators, and energy suppliers will explore full-scope concepts for the South Africa-EU green corridor development. The work will look at bunkering and offtake arrangements, available green fuel supplies, and financial and business model alternatives.

“CMB is proud to be part of the green corridor initiative between South Africa and Europe. CMB has already built various ship types that run on hydrogen and is building dry bulk vessels powered by ammonia. We hope that our track record in the development of green ships will contribute to the success of the consortium and accelerate the deployment of low-carbon vessels on this important trade route,” said Alexander Saverys, CEO at CMB.

As the International Maritime Organization prepares to revise its strategy for decarbonization at the MEPC 80 meeting to be held in London this July, the consortium’s initiative to explore the development of the green corridor between South Africa and Europe is yet another demonstration that the industry is preparing for a rapid shift to zero-emission shipping that leaves no country behind, said Johannah Christensen, CEO of the Global Maritime Forum.

“We hope this project will lay bare a viable shipping decarbonization pathway towards real-world implementation, generating sustainable growth and business opportunities for South Africa and the region, with synergies for other sectors of the economy”,  he added.

You can read more about it here.

U.S. military conducts first maritime training for West African troops

On Saturday March 11, the U.S. military conducted its first maritime drills with West African troops under its long-running Flintlock programme which is intended to strengthen the ability of key partner nations in the region to counter violent extremist organisations, collaborate across borders, and provide security to its citizens. 

The drill, which was carried out in Ghana’s Volta river, involved a sea-based training exercise and culminated with soldiers storming a beach resort to defuse a staged hostage crisis. High-ranking military officials, diplomats and other stakeholders watched the exercise.

Admiral Milton Sands, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command for Africa (SOCAF), said the programme had expanded to help coastal nations in the region cope with maritime threats such as piracy and illegal fishing. Unauthorised fishing “is a significant one that we’re really trying to work with our partners to get our arms around slowing down,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Around 350 troops took part in the drills including servicemen from Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria. The Gulf of Guinea has become a global piracy hotspot in recent years although cases have fallen in the region since 2021, according to the U.N. Security Council.

However, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has spread along West Africa’s coast, sapping an estimated $9.4 billion per year through illicit financial flows, according to a 2022 report by the Financial Transparency Coalition of non-governmental organisations. Of the top 10 companies they found to be involved in IUU fishing in the region, 8 were Chinese and a third of all vessels sported Chinese flags.

Commodore Godwin Livinus Bessing, commander of Ghana’s Naval Training Command, said tackling IUU fishing had become a top priority, citing a lack of resources to deal with the foreign boats stealing from Ghana’s waters.

“They continue to flout our regulations because of our enforcement capabilities,” he said. “That is one of the biggest problems. If we had enough ships out there and they knew we were monitoring the place, we would be able to curb the situation.”

Flintlock has taken place annually since 2005 across the Sahel region of Africa among nations participating in the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership. Last year, Côte d’Ivoire hosted Flintlock 2022, with more than 400 participants from ten nations.

Read more here.

Nigeria Decides – The 2023 Nigerian Elections

The Electoral Process – Successes and Enduring Systemic Challenges

Following the electoral victory of the All Progressive Congress nominee for the presidency on 25 February, observers and critics have continued to discuss the alleged shortcomings in the electoral system.  Widely described as a flawed process, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) also wrestled with the same challenges faced during the second round of elections at State level on 18 March. Despite the criticism of the process, it is expected that Bola Ahmed Tinubu will be inaugurated as President on 29 May.  So where will a federal government led by the septuagenarian veteran of Nigerian politics take the country?  Against this background, other observers and analysts identify some encouraging outcomes of the federal elections.  

Perhaps the principal development that could take Nigeria forward as a mature and credible democracy is the emergence of a third force in the political fabric of the country.  The emergence of the Labour Party led by Peter Obi was bolstered by a groundswell of support among the youth, who are desperate for change.  The momentum began in late 2020 when the #ENDSARS movement emerged, showing the power that social media could have in bringing people together to protest for change.  As the Nigerian population surges towards becoming the second most populous democracy within a generation, the emergence of a largely youth supported party could prove critical in the mid to long term.  

The second important factor in these elections is that for the first time since the end of military rule in 1999, no former military general was on the ballot.

Thirdly, the ruling party won only 36 percent of the vote, 20 percent less than in 2019.

Finally, in more than half the states, the winning presidential candidate represented a different party than that of the incumbent governor, demonstrating that incumbency is no longer a guarantee of success at the polls.

Nevertheless, Nigeria and in particular INEC, needs to address an array of shortcomings in the way the election was conducted if the country is to become the democratic benchmark for West Africa.  International and domestic observers reported a number of issues that INEC should address before the next round of elections at the weekend, including:

  • Reports in the months preceding the polls of at least 18 assassinations or assassination attempts on candidates and party leaders.
  • Widespread delays in polling station opening, particularly in opposition voting areas. Conversely, in many ruling party strongholds, there were reports from election observers and civil society organizations, that voting started early, turnout was higher, and results were reported more quickly.
  • At a small number of polling stations voting was not conducted at all.
  • Violent disruptions to the voting process, including attacks on polling stations and tabulation centres.
  • Theft and destruction of ballot boxes. 
  • Questions of manipulation of results in some states. 
  • INEC’s lack of transparency throughout the election.  Challenges with the electronic transfer of results and their upload to a public portal in a timely manner undermined citizen confidence at a crucial moment of the process. Moreover, inadequate communication and lack of clarity by INEC about the cause and extent of these problems created confusion and eroded voters “’trust in the process.”

Observers reported that many voters – even those supporting winning candidates – expressed frustration and disappointment. A major question mark remains over the participation figures.   With almost 94 million registered voters, 10 million of whom were eligible to vote for the first time, fewer than 25 million votes were cast.

One aspect of the challenges facing voters was the currency crisis which was perceived by some to have a political undercurrent.  The shortage of available hard currency impacted on voters’ ability to travel to polling centres, further contributing to voter disenfranchisement and low turnout.

The National Executive Council of AnyiAnyi, an international group of powerful Igbo professionals and experts, led by Anthony Olisa Okolo and Peter Agba Kaluhas, drew attention to the apparent failure of the INEC to gain the trust of the public by conducting free, fair and credible elections.

The group claimed that Igbo people across the country and in Lagos especially have “…been made the scapegoat of widespread rejection of a party and their candidate, leading to the disruption of Igbo businesses, destruction of our people’s shops, properties, and wilful damage and intimidation of voters, leading even to grievous bodily harm.” 

Major Errors of Judgement by the Central Bank?

Nigeria has previously and successfully introduced new banknotes several times since independence in 1960. So what caused the issues this time? 

The CBN announced the introduction of new banknotes in November 2022, with the changeover to new notes scheduled for mid-December.  The transition rapidly disintegrated leaving millions of Nigerians without access to cash, triggering protests and attacks on banks and ATM machine facilities.  

The rollout of the currency change was disastrous. The fallout included:

  • Severe shortages of the new banknotes.
  • Massive decline in business transactions (especially in the informal sector).
  • People queueing for hours at banks and ATM machines.
  • Attacks on bank staff and destruction of bank property, including ATMs that failed to dispense cash.

The policy also led to lawsuits by some state governors against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Government.

The CBN seemingly failed to carry out a full cost-benefit analysis.  It promoted the benefits of the project without apparently making a serious effort to assess the cost – not least of which was the huge impact on economic activity – especially in the informal economy upon which millions of Nigerians rely for sustenance.

It also failed to adequately inform the general population of the aims and the details of the process for the transition to new bank notes, but also appeared to have not carried along the commercial banks, which were left uncertain as to the procedures for transitioning.  This extends to failing to issue policy guidelines following the Supreme Court ruling that some old bank notes should continue to be legal tender.  This fundamental failure of planning and execution triggered confusion and anger as merchants and businesses continue to reject the old notes, despite the court’s rulings.

The timing of the implementation could hardly have been worse and the timeline for completion of the transition was unrealistic and unsupported by a logical explanation as to why it was so compressed.

The CBN also failed to adequately explain why old and new notes could not coexist.  This has now been enforced by the Supreme Court, which has ordered the Bank to comply and implement their earlier ruling.

Undermining the entire process was an opaque strategy with no clear prioritisation of the aims and objectives.  This led to conflicting priorities and requirements.  

Had the CBN opted for a tandem system of using both sets of notes, it could have withdrawn the old notes over a period and avoided the hardship inflicted on millions of traders and citizens.  The aim of reducing the amount of currency circulating outside the banking system has probably been thoroughly undermined, as Nigerians now do not trust the banks to make their hard-earned cash accessible on demand and by default may be even less likely to deposit their cash.

The policy also completely failed to take into account the fact that the Nigerian economy is currently in a state of crisis, with 22% inflation, 33% unemployment– 43% among young Nigerians – and a growth rate of 3%, interest rates at 17.5%, steep declines in the value of the Naira, and burgeoning poverty.

Speculation and commentary in Nigeria and abroad has alluded to the suspicion that the timing of the changeover was politically inspired to suppress vote buying and electoral fraud.  While that was achieved – to some extent – the election is still subject to allegations of influencing of INEC officials using hard foreign currency.

The net effect was that Nigerians were already suffering unprecedented hardship when the CBN effectively removed their ability to withdraw cash on demand.  To do so during what is perhaps the most heavily contested election in the country’s recent history was reckless and ruined the credibility of the banking system for many Nigerians.

Moving to a Dual Currency System

On 13 March 2023, the CBN announced that it had extended the timeline to withdraw its old currency for redesigned notes.  The old notes of 200 naira (43 U.S. cents), 500 naira ($1.08) and 1,000 naira ($2.16) will now remain legal tender until 31 December 2023, which begs the question as to why this could not have been done in the first instance.  It is perhaps important to note that the Bank announced that this move was taken in order to comply with a directive from the Supreme Court, which ruled on 3rd March 2023 that the program’s failed implementation was in breach of the law.

However, on 14 March, thousands still queued at banks as neither old nor new notes were available in sufficient volume to meet demands.  To date, according to the Lagos-based Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprises, the impact on the Nigerian economy of the failed process is estimated to have cost 20 trillion naira ($43 billion) as a result of the catastrophic impact on trading activities, the stifling of the informal economy and contraction of the agricultural sector.

Meanwhile, President Elect Tinubu’s Director of Media and Publicity, Bayo Onanuga, has asked President Buhari to sack CBN Governor Emefiele, arguing that his continued governorship of the bank is in conflict with the suspension of the cashless policy by the Supreme Court.

The State Elections

Elections for governors and state assemblies were postponed by a week allegedly due to pending legal cases in the presidential vote by opposition parties who have filed lawsuits demanding the right to examine ballot papers and voting machines from the 25 February 2023 presidential polls. 

INEC filed a countersuit saying it needed to reconfigure the Bimodal Voter Accreditation Systems (BVAS) ahead of the gubernatorial elections that had been planned for 11 March.  The Supreme Court directed INEC to upload information in the BVAS onto a secure server for opposition parties to review.  INEC said the ruling came far too late for the commission to adequately prepare for the elections, while the opposition Labour Party (LP) stated that it wanted to “keep close eye and watch what is happening within the INEC and BVAS.”  Amid argument and counterargument, the court has heard allegations of corruption from the LP and a fear that voter confidentiality will be breached if the opposition is granted full access to its Cloud storage system from the INEC.  Both opposition parties threatened to protest if access were denied.

Recent activity and trend analysis showed that electoral violence was most likely to occur in Rivers, Lagos and Kano States.  It is perhaps significant that these three states are the most important economically and also have the three largest urban populations in the country.

As the country prepared for the 18 March round of election in 28 states, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), including 28 governorship and 993 assembly seats, expectations were high regarding the performance of INEC.  The Commission did manage to achieve some improvements in the conduct of the polls compared to the earlier Presidential elections, with particular enhancements in the deployment of security officers to the various polling units, more efficient distribution of election materials, and more timely opening of the polling centres.  According to a board member of Yiaga Africa, Ezenwa Nwagwu, during the Governorship and State Assembly elections the INEC Result Viewing portal (IReV) functioned optimally and electronic  voter accreditation using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) was successfully implemented in a significant number of polling stations.

The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room raised concern over attacks being carried out in some parts of the country and noted that there was still a long way to go before the country achieves a truly credible and transparent electoral system.  A well-respected civil society monitoring organisation, Yiaga Africa, stated that its observers had recorded 216 critical incidents, including vote-trading, violence, ballot-snatching and voter-suppression.  The body reported irregular activity in approximately 5% of polling units, including destruction of election materials, arguments and quarrels between party agents, and fighting among party supporters, among others.  Given the country’s election history, irregularities in just one in twenty polling centres is testament to the focus INEC has placed on delivering a credible election.

Other reporting indicates that killings occurred in Benue, Kano, Ebonyi, Cross Rivers, Gombe, and Rivers State, with some of the fatalities recorded resulting from security forces responding to acts of violence and ballot box snatching by political thugs and voter intimidation. Suppression by non-state elements was reported in Lagos, Gombe, Edo, Kano, Enugu, Imo, Bayelsa, and Rivers.  The elections took on an ethnic character in Lagos where some voters claimed they were prevented from voting because of their ethnicity and/or perceived party affiliation.  Similar activity was reported in Sokoto state in the north-west, Kano in the north, and Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta.

Some vote buying is alleged to have occurred in several states and this is supported by reports of party officials being arrested in possession of very large amounts of cash in Lagos and Rivers states.  Party agents were observed in some location asking voters to declare who they had voted for.

Security forces personnel generally performed well during the state gubernatorial and senate elections, with notable successes in Lagos, where a ballot box snatcher was rescued from a lynch mob, and in Imo State where abducted INEC personnel were rescued.  One observer organisation reported that almost all voting centres had at least two security personnel present.  The State saw incumbent Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the APC win a solid victory.  Nevertheless, Lagos State experienced some irregularities.  Unconfirmed media reports suggest the security forces responded to 24 calls for assistance in the State between the opening of the polling centres at 08:30 am and 13:30 pm.  The areas of the city affected included Oshodi, Jakande Estate, Ejigbo, Ajao and Oke-Afa.  The resounding victory of Sanwo-Olu, with more than 736,000 votes over the second place Labour Party candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, who secured 292,000 votes, raises an interesting discussion about how the APC managed to turn the vote around in a state where the LP voted solidly against the APC and for the LP in the presidential elections.

Despite a generally good performance by security forces personnel in Rivers State, a total of at least 12 people were killed in election related acts of violence, including 3 political thugs in Ogbakiri in the Emohua LGA.  However, voting commenced early in Woji, Rumuomasi, Rumobaikani and Elelenwo in the Obi Akpor LGA.  Low voter turnout reportedly led to the polling centres closing mid-afternoon, potentially disenfranchising some voters who intended to vote later in the day.  Furthermore, reports indicated that voting did not occur in the Asari-Toru, Gokana and Khana LGAs.  In other reports, numerous videos circulated on social media apparently showing ballot box snatching, including at Uniport where a lecturer allegedly led a gang of thugs who stole ballot boxes.

Social media carried numerous reports and videos in which Igbo commentary claimed the Igbo voting areas of Lagos state were subject to harassment and voter suppression.  Given that this also occurred in areas such as Surulere, Oniru and Yaba in the 2019 elections, the reports may well be credible.  

Additionally, unconfirmed reports claimed that security forces arrested a total of 140 political thugs in Enugu State at a hotel in Nsukka and political thugs destroyed ballots in Birnin Ruwa in Zamfara State.

Some states, including Lagos, allowed voting to resume on Sunday, 19 March.

What Next for Nigeria?

The APC retains a slightly diminished, but still solid, majority in the Nigerian Senate and a slim majority in the House of Representatives. The new National Assembly is significantly different in terms of parties represented and individual members to the outgoing legislature.  At least eight parties will be represented. The APC won 57 senatorial seats, the PDP 29, the LP 6, New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) 2 each, and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and Young Progressive Party (YPP) 1 seat each, according to the breakdown.

While the PDP remains the leading opposition party, Nigeria’s first-past-the-post electoral system has meant that many of the gains by the LP and smaller parties came at its expense: it has lost at least fifteen Senate seats. While the momentum for change was insufficient to overturn the Nigerian political system, it has ensured that numerous long-standing presences in the assembly have come to an end.  The downside to this is that 3 of the 6 sitting female parliamentarians will depart.

Tinubu has pledged to end the fuel subsidy that costs Nigeria some $15 billion annually and use the money “more productively in joint investments with the private sector to create jobs in infrastructure, health care, education and agriculture.” He plans to focus investments in industrialization, technological innovation, improved infrastructure, and agricultural development.  

To achieve this, he will face a wall of vested interests that have defeated such an initiative by every Nigerian president before him.  If he forges ahead with his plan, Nigeria will face further fuel shortages and civil unrest as ordinary Nigerians run out of fuel and businesses are forced to shut down.  

Restoring security will also need to be a top priority. The country faces a mosaic of security challenges, including:

  • Islamist terrorism in the northeast
  • Banditry and criminal gangs in the northwest, 
  • Separatists in the oil-rich southeast,
  • Industrialised theft of oil and condensate by transnational cartels led by powerful Nigerian actors,
  • Herder-farmer conflicts in the middle belt, 
  • Increasing levels of poverty driven violence in cities. 

While Nigerian oil and gas do not have the importance for the United States it once had, events in Nigeria are still of strategic importance in Washington.  Conversely, as the European Union tries to realign its strategic energy relationships away from Russia, the importance of Nigeria, already the source of about 14 percent of EU imports of gas, has increased immeasurably. Furthermore, as Nigeria’s population explodes from its current 216 million to 375 million by 2050, making the country the third most populous in the world after India and China, it will become a regional and continental heavyweight that will increasingly matter to the West.  All of these factors should be major drivers of Tinubu’s new foreign policy.

Whatever he does, Tinubu will have to move fast to address the many challenges that his presidency will face.  Failing to demonstrate to the youth that he is serious about developing the economy and creating opportunities for work and prosperity will likely result in a stronger Labour Party and significant social unrest.  Fuel shortages, poverty, unemployment and insecurity must attract his attention as the key issues to be addressed from day one of his tenure.

Nigeria Chooses – A Snapshot of the Federal Elections to Date

Introduction and Background

Following what was probably the most contested presidential election in Nigeria’s history, and an election process that according to many observers and commentators was deeply flawed, in the early hours of Wednesday, 01 March 2023, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that the candidate for the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had won the election for the Presidency and was the new President Elect.

His victory was the result of a deeply split opposition.  According to the BBC, the combined votes of his three closest rivals – one member and two former members of PDP – amounted to 60% of the vote.  Had they been contesting on a unified ticket the APC would have been ousted from the Presidency.  The PDP’s Atiku Abubakar won 29% of votes cast, the Labour Party’s Peter Obi 25% and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the NNPP 6%.  Tinubu won with just 37% of votes cast.

Of key note, and a possible indication of future political change in the country, for the first time a third candidate became a serious contender.  The rise of Peter Obi has been meteoric, despite a poor resource base and a weakly organised campaign.  Observers have contrasted Tinubu with Obi, an energetic and frugal 62-year-old businessman, who reached across the country’s social and political fault lines to woo voters from all communities and ran a slick social media campaign to attract the young.  

Significantly, Obi won a total of 6.1m votes, winning in both Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city and commercial powerhouse, and the federal capital, Abuja. His success in attracting a significant percentage of votes cast should serve as a warning to the ruling APC and the new President that the people, particularly the youths and young professionals, want change.

In what may have been seen as an unusual move, Tinubu, a southern Muslim, instead of choosing a running mate from one of the Christian minorities in the north, picked a northern Muslim.  He took a risk in order to avoid alienating the huge Muslim voting bloc in the north – though in doing so he risked irritating most of the country’s Christians by having a Muslim-Muslim ticket.  

Tinubu’s Manifesto

So, what has Tinubu promised in his manifesto and will it be enough to address the ever-present sectarian tensions in the country?  

Historically Tinubu has a track record of addressing major challenges from his time as Governor of Lagos State, where he tackled rampant criminality and gridlocked traffic congestion.  But questions remain over what he can/will deliver on a national level.

During the election the President-elect built his platform on three major pillars, vowing to focus on escalating and expanding violence, double-digit inflation and the seemingly intractable challenge of industrial-scale oil theft.  He has also stated that he aims to deliver the following:

Social and Economic Development

  • A robust public infrastructure programme to create jobs.
  • Removal of legal limits on government spending.
  • Reduction of corporate tax to attract investment. 
  • Plugging tax loopholes to boost revenue.
  • The phasing out of the fuel subsidy, which cost $10 billion last year and is driving up debt.  The taxes raised will be used to fund the infrastructure projects referred to above as well as agriculture and social welfare.
  • Reform of the existing system of multiple foreign exchange rates.  The International Monetary Fund says the system is subject to abuse and makes it difficult for investors to repatriate their money driving away necessary FDI.
  • Using any new borrowing to fund projects that generate revenue from which debt can be repaid. 

Reform of the Oil Sector

  • Establishment of a dedicated surveillance unit to protect the country’s pipelines. 
  • Development of tax incentives to attract new investors.
  • Refurbishment and development of Nigeria’s refining sector to reduce the country’s dependence on imported refined product.

Internal Security Challenges

  • Recruitment and training of more military and police personnel.
  • Improving the pay and equipping of the security forces.
  • Creation of dedicated “anti-terrorist battalions” and special forces to fight jihadists and armed gangs. 
  • Involvement of the military in community initiatives to “win hearts and minds.”

Was the Election Conducted Properly?

Nigeria needed a clean election to underline the basic premise that the country is a modern democracy and that the people can choose their leaders. Sadly, some reports show some aspects of the election may have been badly mismanaged.

The emergence of Peter Obi as a viable third-party candidate brought excitement and forced all candidates to deliver a credible manifesto based on actual policies. 

Observers assessed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was in good shape, having high expectations that INEC’s promise to transmit voting tallies electronically from polling stations would be met and eliminate the potential for ballot stuffing. 

According to some analysts, INEC stumbled badly, with voting starting late in many districts, potentially depriving millions of the right to vote. The system to remotely upload results from 177,000 polling stations failed in many places, causing legitimate concerns about vote tampering during the numerous long delays – some of which seemed contrived.  

Violence during the election was also widespread, but relatively isolated.  However, Rivers State and parts of Lagos State saw significant political violence on both days that polling took place.  A report in the Financial Times claimed they had witnessed armed men remove a presidential ballot box in Surulere, Lagos.  INEC announced the results early on Wednesday, but some individual results appear suspect, including that of Peter Obi’s narrow victory in Lagos state.

Observers and commentators noted several concerns relating to the conduct of the polls, including:

  • Long delays in the opening of polling centres causing many voters to lose the opportunity to cast their votes. In some polling units with thousands of registered voters, voting allegedly did not commence until 13:00 – one-and-a-half hours before polls were due to close.  Despite the extension of the opening of such centres, many were unable to vote when darkness fell and security forces left, forcing the polling centres to close.
  • Reports in Lagos of some polling officers failing to arrive at all at polling centres.
  • At some voting centres, particularly in opposition strongholds, it is alleged that voting did not in fact take place.
  • Numerous cases, some supported by video evidence, of ballot-box snatching, violence and voter intimidation have been reported.  This was particularly prevalent in states in the south such as Rivers, Lagos and Delta.
  • Election monitoring group Yiaga, said only 10% of polling units in the south-east and 29% in the south had started accreditation and voting by 09:30 local time on Saturday – an hour after polls opened.  Conversely, in the APC heartlands, 63% of polling units in the south-west and 42% of polling units in the north-west, known APC strongholds, had started voting at that time.
  • International observer missions from the NDI-IRI (The International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) Joint Election Observation Mission (IEOM)) and the EU have described the process as lacking transparency. A team of observers led by Joyce Banda, the former president of Malawi, said delays on voting day, which led to many polling stations opening hours late, meant the election “fell well short of Nigerian citizens’ reasonable expectations”.  An EU mission said the failures “reduced trust in the process and challenged the right to vote”. You can read the preliminary statements here and here. 

Dismissing these observation on Wednesday, Tinubu said, “the lapses that were reported, they were relatively few in number and were immaterial to affect the final outcome of the election.”

Perhaps of greater concern when considering the political mandate of the new President is that official INEC figures for voter turnout was particularly low, reaching only 27%, which means two-thirds of the 87mn people who lined up for hours to collect their voter registration cards subsequently failed to cast their ballot.   

This cannot simply be explained away as voter apathy and the possibility of widespread voter intimidation, suppression, and ballot theft cannot be ruled out.  With just 25 million votes being cast in a country with a population of 220 million (Tinubu won just 8.8 million votes), the new President will almost certainly need to address the political malaise if he wishes to run again in 2027 and any second term is to have legitimacy.

Both Peter Obi of the Labour Party and the People’s Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar have made claims that the election was rigged in some states and polling areas.  They have to decide whether to launch legal challenges to the result, they have 21 days following the result to do so, but statements from both in the 48hrs after the result was announced seem to indicate this is a possibility. The election “was grossly flawed in every material particular and as such, must be challenged by all of us”, Mr Abubakar said on Thursday, adding that he was consulting his lawyers. 

Earlier in the day, Mr Obi said Saturday’s elections would go down as “one of the most controversial elections in Nigeria’s history”.

“The good and hard-working people of Nigeria have again been robbed by our supposed leaders whom they trusted,” he told journalists.  It is notable that courts in both Kenya (2017) and Malawi (2020) overturned election results deemed to be suspect.  If the losing candidates launch a legal challenge, the courts in Nigeria face a challenging situation that will embroil them in what will likely become a vigorously fought political and legal contest.  In reality, it is unlikely that the Nigerian courts will overturn the election result.

Image credit: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-64808775

What Next?

In a series of post-election speeches, Tinubu sought to play down the problems reported by observers relating to the credibility of the election and to avert post-poll violence.  He addressed his competitors and their supporters in conciliatory terms and called for unity of nation and of purpose.  He said; “I take this opportunity to appeal to my fellow contestants to let us team up together,” the 70-year-old veteran said in a speech broadcast live on television. “It is the only nation we have. It is one country and we must build together.”

Several hours later, he addressed those who voted for other candidates, saying; “I understand your hurt. To you, I extend the embrace and comfort of a family member. This great project called Nigeria beckons to us all. It is bigger and more important than any partisan divide.” 

His words are an important call for calm and unity.  Nigeria sits of a knife edge, with widespread internal security challenges, rampant organised crime, serious inter-communal violence in some parts of the country along with deepening poverty and hardship for most Nigerians.  The economy has stalled and foreign currency reserves are almost completely depleted.  In a country with burgeoning population growth, change and reform will be a priority for the President.

Reform of the security forces is also essential if Nigeria is to move forward.  It is hoped that these reforms will address the fundamental problems of poor pay and poor equipment and logistics that hamstring security forces operations.

The Muslim-Muslim ticket will additionally have exacerbated tensions among Christians throughout the country.  This issue has the potential to generate flash points, particularly in the mid-belt states where sectarian fault lines run through hundreds of communities.  This was illustrated starkly following the 2011 election – most sharply in Kaduna, where a wave of sectarian violence left hundreds dead.

Finally human rights in Nigeria are under the microscope.   It remains uncertain how important these issues are to the President-elect after his comments following the shooting of numerous protestors at the Lekki Toll Gate during the #ENDSARS protests in late 2021 (read a report from the time here)

On the political front, the country now moves into the next round of elections in which voters will elect state governors and local council leaders.  Historically, these elections have been more violent and more heavily disrupted than those at the federal level.  With the main opposition parties levelling allegation that the federal elections were flawed and calling for them to be scrapped, it is possible that the state elections will be fought very vigorously.  Hot spots are likely in Rivers and Lagos States as well as the predominantly Igbo populated and largely PDP supporting states of the South East region”. The US on Thursday called on the INEC to address the technical issues faced in the Presidential election prior to the next round of elections (read the details here)

Arete will continue to monitor this developing situation and provide updates accordingly, including the run up to the governorship and state elections on 11th March.

Maritime 2022 Review (3) – Security ramps up in GoG

In January 2022, the EU committed to a two-year extension of its deployment of warships to the Gulf of Guinea region, known as the Coordinated Maritime Presences (CMP) program.  It was proposed that Denmark will patrol West Africa’s waters for four months, Spain for seven and a half months, France for eleven months, Italy for eight months and Portugal for three and a half months.

Although the Danish naval presence in the region ended in February 2022 (partly due to the invasion of Ukraine and the requirement for NATO vessels to return to the region, in mid-September, the Consul General of France in Lagos, Laurence Monmayrant, representing the French Ambassador at the 7th Lagos International Maritime Week, announced the decision to extend the CMP program and said it is a result of the successes recorded by the initiative in reducing pirate attacks against commercial vessels in the Gulf of Guinea by more than 80 per cent.

Earlier in the year, in July, the EU stepped up support to the development of the Liberian Coast Guard through the Support for West African Integrated Maritime Security (SWAIMS) program.  Focal areas for improvement include the supply of rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBS) and relevant training of its personnel, patrolling and evidence collection at sea will also be strengthened.

In early January 2022, the Ghanaian Navy received four Flex Fighter vessels from Penguin Shipyard in Singapore (GNS Volta, Densu, Pra and Ankobra), which were acquired specifically to patrol oil and gas fields in the country’s EEZ.  

This development ensured that only Ghanaian Navy vessels and boats will protect offshore oil and gas infrastructure in the country, displacing private security vessels, which had previously proliferated with the growth of piracy in the region.

Nigeria’s New Banknote Crisis – A Case Study in Self-Harm or a Shrewd Step towards Modernising the Economy

On 26 October, 2022, Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), announced that the bank had redesigned NGN200, NGN500, and NGN1,000 naira notes.  It announced that the new designs would replace the old notes over a very compressed timeline in early 2023.  The principal reasons for the move were given by the CBN as:

  • More than 80% of all banknotes were in public hands – characterised by the CBN as hoarding.
  • High rates of, and increasing ease of, counterfeiting of NGN500 and NGN1,000 banknotes
  • An excess of bank notes in circulation – having risen from N1.46 trillion in December 2015 to N3.23 trillion in September 2022
  • The ambition to fully implement a cashless policy
  • To enable security agencies to track anyone who withdraws huge (undefined) sums to determine its use
  • The shortage of clean and fit banknotes
  • To moderate inflation
  • To curtail the activities of kidnappers and bandits by making ransom payments more difficult and to allow tracking of new notes.

Many commentators have, in recent weeks, suggested that the timing of the strategic move is very revealing.  It has been suggested that the withdrawal of the old bank notes from legal tender was timed to forestall the payment of huge amounts of cash to influence the outcome of the imminent elections.  Some have been more outspoken and claimed it is a direct attack on the APC nominee for the Presidency, Mr Bola Ahmed Tinubu.  

President Buhari officially unveiled the new NGN200, NGN500, and NGN1,000 notes on November 23, 2022, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.  On 15 December, 2022, the newly redesigned naira notes were released into circulation as they were dispensed through ATM machines mixed with the old banknotes.   However, many commercial banks failed to issue the new notes and seemed to operate an unofficial policy of withholding the new notes until the deadline for the withdrawal of the old notes – 31 January 2023.  This had the effect of seeing people deposit the old notes and then being issued with the same old currency.  The stage was set for widespread discontent among ordinary Nigerians who were not yet ready to join the cashless society desired by the CBN.

In response, on 04 January 2023, the CBN banned over the counter cash withdrawals in an attempt to ameliorate the effect of a dramatic shortage of the new notes.  Compounding the difficulties experienced by millions of Nigerians, the CBN governor ordered commercial banks to set the withdrawal limit of the new notes at NGN100,000 (c.$135) for individuals and NGN500,000 (c.$660) for corporate bodies.  Moreover, the maximum cash withdrawal via ATM per day was pegged at NGN20,000 (c.$25) and NGN100,000 (c.$135) per week.  This strategy triggered a wave of economic hardship for small businesses, traders, and individuals, leading to an outburst which forced the CBN to increase the limit to NGN500,000 (c.$660) for individuals and NGN5 million (c.$6,600) for corporate accounts.

Early in 2023, the Governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai, addressed the economic hardship being inflicted on people as a result of the CBN’s policy on cash withdrawal limits, alleging that “CBN mopped up over NGN2 trillion of the old notes but only printed NGN300 billion of the new notes”.

In response to the growing crisis, the House of Representatives sent an invitation to the CBN governor to address the House and explain the policy and strategy to them.  He ignored the invitation until an infuriated Speaker of the House threatened Emefiele with arrest.  He then, reluctantly, appeared before them on the day of the deadline for withdrawal of the old notes.  During his meeting with lawmakers, Emefiele extended the deadline date to deposit the old naira notes to 17 February, 2023, which also meant holders of the old notes could spend them till 10 February.

It was initially reported that the cash shortage was caused by banking authorities failing to release enough new notes.  However, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has reported that it has conducted raids in which officers had arrested bank managers for allegedly hoarding the new notes in vaults rather than putting them in ATMs and giving them to customers.  

Following a legal challenge initiated by the APC-run northern states of Kaduna, Kogi and Zamfara, on 09 February 2023, the Supreme Court waded into the crisis, suspending the deadline for withdrawal of the old notes.  On the same day, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank both called on the Federal Government to push the deadline for implementation back to alleviate the growing hardship being experienced by Nigerians.  On 13 February 2023, Ekiti, Bayelsa, Sokoto and Rivers joined the group of states lodging the legal challenge to the CBN strategy.  The Supreme Court heard the case on 15 February but immediately adjourned the case until 22 February amid the expectation of an address to the nation by the President.  

On 15 February 2023, President Buhari addressed the nation (a full transcript of the address is available at Annex A).  Following the address, he ordered the release of the old format N200 notes back into circulation alongside the new format notes of N200, N500 and N1,000 denominations until 10 April.  This step, broadly in line with the recommendations of the IMF and World Bank, is designed to ease the hardship being experienced by millions of Nigerians and has been met with mixed reactionsThe move leaves the old format N500 and N1,000 denominations as no longer legal tender.  Some commentators stated that the move would save many small businesses from failure.  Significant dissatisfaction exists at the continuing scarcity of the new bank notes amid suspicion that the banks are witholding the new format notes. 

It is noteworthy that the extension will allow Nigerians to sustain their businesses beyond the presidential elections due on 25 February 2023 and the state and local council elections due to take place on 11 March 2023.  It is illuminating that the President stated that “this new monetary policy has also contributed immensely to the minimization of the influence of money in politics”.  The aim is admirable, with the timeline being compressed in order to maximise the impact on electoral fraud and vote-buying, but the implementation of the strategy has, to a large extent, been muddled and possibly counterproductive.   


The Impact of the Strategy on Social Cohesion

Since early February, banks across the country have been closing their doors to customers due to the scarcity of the new format of bank notes.  Particularly affected have been banks in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja.  The crisis is affecting multiple banks including Fidelity Bank, First Bank, Zenith Bank, Access Bank and Guaranty Trust Bank.

Small businesses that depend on day-to-day cash transactions have been unable to access their funds or manage their cashflow.  Point Of Sale operators are being forced to shut down as they are unable to withdraw cash to service their businesses.  This has resulted in a suppression of commerce compounded by the fact that the customers were also unable to access cash to spend in the markets.  Worst hit were businesses that handle perishable goods.

Millions of Nigerians do not have bank accounts and in many families the main earners have been struggling to support their families due to their inability to acquire cash.  One estimate says that approximately 40% of Nigeria’s adult population does not have a bank account, particularly those living in rural areas. Even for those that have an account, the shortage of new naira notes is leaving many people unable to pay bills and buy sustenance.  The CBN policy of moving towards a cashless society is unrealistic as the country currently lacks the infrastructure to facilitate such an ambition.

Businesses that did have POS payment facilities were forced to close and those that stayed open are charging exorbitant interest rates, adding further misery to the already struggling people of Nigeria.

Some banks have been attacked as patrons find the ATM machines unable to dispense the non-existent new currency.  Customers are queueing for hours to withdraw the very limited amounts of cash the CBN will permit banks to issue.  Anecdotal information tells of people queueing for hours, only to be told they can only have N3,000 due to the shortage of new notes.  The banks are in a difficult position, but their customers are suffering extreme hardship.  One customer was allowed to withdraw just one thousand naira – and then only because they pleaded that they would not be able to pay for transport to reach home again.  Fights have broken out and anyone fortunate enough to be able to withdraw cash risks being robbed by desperate citizens and opportunistic thieves.  Amid threats against bank staff, the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees have threatened to withdraw their services of its members nationwide following attacks on some commercial banks.

Inflation has also surged, as those with cash available impose punitive interest rates on ordinary customers.  Anecdotal information indicates that money changers are charging N6,000 for a N20,000 transaction.  A survey by one Nigerian newspaper revealed that Point of Sale (PoS) transaction charges jumped 400% in most cities across the country in the first week of February.

Some Nigerians have also been unable to purchase essential medications without access to cash.  This has impacted to such an extent that the Governor of Borno State ordered the release of N300 million worth of drugs to government hospitals and called on hospitals to issue them free to patients. 

Violence and protests have been spreading across the country as a result of the upheaval including; 

  • Commercial drivers refusing to accept old format notes in Ibadan, Oyo State leading to widespread stranding of commuters generating significant tension;
  • Protestors barricading streets with bonfires in Ondo Town, Ondo State and in Sango Ota, Ogun State;
  • Protestors setting fire to a branch of Access Bank in Udu Udu LGA, Delta State;
  • Protests locking down the Eleko Axis Of Kwara State Polytechnic in Ilorin;
  • Security forces being forced to fire warning shots as protestors blockaded the CBN office on the ring road of Benin City, Edo State;
  • Protests erupting in Port Harcourt on Ozuoba Road in the Rumuosi area;
  • Violent protests taking place in Mokola and Sango in areas of Ibadan in Oyo State.


Political Implications and Fallout

The timing of the transition – within weeks of the Presidential election and months of the State and local council elections – could not have been worse.  The move has triggered widespread hardship and discontent among countless millions of Nigerians – most of whom are entitled to vote in the upcoming polls.  

The social impact cannot have been overlooked in the planning of the strategy and, indeed, according to some commentators, it was probably considered a desirable outcome.  This is reflected in comments by the All Progressive Congress (APC) Presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who has publicly alleged that the move was designed to damage the APC’s election prospects.  Coming at the same time as a fuel shortage and pricing crisis, the bank note change out is generating very high levels of frustration and anger among the population.  

Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition PDP backed the policy in principle but said it had been implemented poorly, while Peter Obi of the Labour Party urged Nigerians to be patient, saying the reforms would have long-term benefits.

If Tinubu’s allegations are correct, and the crisis is contrived for political reasons, it would have the potential to light the fuse of an explosive situation.  Tinubu has reportedly warned that he would set the country ablaze if he loses the election unfairly.  The veracity of that report is unknown, but the political veteran has long been known as a kingmaker, initially in the Peoples’ Democratic Party, and latterly the All Progressive Congress.  It is widely accepted that his wealth and influence is sufficient to shape the political landscape of the country, and that may be the basis for the report.  

The political position of the CBN Governor is itself fueling speculation that the strategy is politically inspired.  Emefiele was appointed to the position in 2014 after the previous Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was ousted after illuminating the issue of missing revenues.  Emefiele has been Governor since then and exposed his political ambitions when in 2022 he sought to run as the APC presidential candidate.  The Supreme Court ruled against his candidacy, and this has led to speculation that the unhelpful timing of the currency exchange might be simply a case of settling political scores.

Interestingly, if Tinubu is correct, and the instability triggered by the CBN strategy reflects back onto the APC at the polls, the Presidency will most likely go to a northern candidate, breaking the long-standing so-called Zoning Arrangement irreparably.  Such an outcome will have dangerous political implications and could lead to widespread social unrest as the south rejects the result.  Following the 2011 elections, thousands of Nigerians died in sectarian and political violence when the north felt it had been robbed of the Presidency.  It is very likely that the south will feel equally cheated, resulting in a wave of political violence across the mid-belt states and targeting some communities in the southern states.


What to Expect

The Supreme Court decision has bought the government some time, but the outcome is not going to change; the bank notes will be changed.  However, how quickly they will be introduced remains to be seen. Some analysts suggest it will take another 3-6 months – which is beyond the elections and into the first term of the new Presidency.  

Meanwhile, the average Nigerian will continue to suffer great hardship caused by the shortage of hard currency.  This will undoubtedly lead to more frequent outbreaks of unrest at banks as well as an elevated level of risk posed by destitute people being forced into street crime in order to sustain their families.  Other negative effects include;

  • Pedestrians leaving banks are likely to be more frequently targeted by the desperate of the opportunists;
  • Motorists sitting in traffic, already at risk from marauding gangs of armed robbers will become even more heavily targeted;
  • Small businesses – especially those that handle cash such as beer parlours, street vendors, hair salons etc or that trade in consumables (rice, cooking oil etc) – will be more likely to suffer theft and robbery.
  • The predatory gangs that have existed for years will become even more energetic in their activities and could pose an elevated threat to individuals and small businesses.

In the event that the APC loses the Presidential election, there is a significant risk of widespread political violence in protest at the perceived ‘rigging’ of the election by the CBN.  

There is also a heightened risk of sectarian violence in mixed communities and along sectarian fault lines in some areas including, but not limited to, Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Kano City and parts of Lagos. 

To try and assist their customers, some banks have waived fees for transferring money, others opened on Saturday and Sunday. However, other banks have been forced to close due to the threat of violence to their premises and staff. Arete will continue to monitor notices/advice from the banks and other institutions, along with the ongoing situation, and provide updates accordingly.

Maritime 2022 Review (2) – Nigeria’s Pirates Switch from Kidnapping Seafarers to Stealing Oil

The Gulf of Guinea witnessed a dramatic reduction in acts of piracy through 2022 with an IMB report in Q4 of 2022 showing acts of piracy in the first nine months of the year at 50% the levels for the same period in the preceding year.  

Indeed evidence suggests that criminal networks have now switched back to oil bunkering, theft and illegal fishing most likely due to these activities being less risky and more profitable.  The result of the switch to illegal bunkering is thought to be behind the oil production in Nigeria in August and September 2022 falling to below one million barrels per day as a consequence of a huge surge pipeline vandalism and industrialised oil theft.

A report to the UN Security Council stated that changing dynamics of criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea underline the importance of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, signed in June 2013, and the need for states and their regional and international partners to accelerate efforts to establish security in the region.  

The code promotes information sharing and reporting, interdicting suspicious vessels, ensuring apprehension and prosecution, harmonising national legislation, guaranteeing resources to maritime security and safety, and outlining state responsibility to patrol anchorage areas.

However, disagreements between key maritime bodies attribute the drop directly to strategies in which they could be said to have vested interests.  The International Maritime Bureau attributed the reduction of piracy and other maritime crimes in the area to the presence of foreign Navies in the region. This was challenged by the Director General of NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh, who said the controversial USD195 million Deep Blue Project initiated by the Federal Ministry of Transportation, but paid for by NIMASA, is responsible for the decline in piracy at Gulf of Guinea.

Maritime 2022 Review (1) – Illegal, Unlicensed and Unregulated Fishing

On 02 November 2022, a report was published that identified a global trend of the deliberate disabling of AIS systems, which amongst other reasons, could be due to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.  

The report, titled “Hotspots of Unseen Fishing Vessels,” was a collaboration between the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), who worked on the study with researchers at Global Fishing Watch and NOAA Fisheries.

Key findings revealed more than 55,000 suspected intentional disabling events from 2017 to 2019, which in turn may have obscured nearly 5 million hours of fishing vessel activity.

The waters of West African littoral states are one of four global hotspots for this activity where the disabling of AIS systems may have been undertaken not only for illicit fishing purposes, but to possibly to protect the ship and crew from piracy. 

The issues surrounding both legal and illegal fishing have become such an issue that in early November 2022, Ghana issued a new maritime strategy to promote and secure its blue economy by 2040.  

Indeed, an investigation by the Environmental Justice Foundation found that 90% of fishing vessels operating in Ghana are owned by Chinese companies and overfishing of Ghanaian waters is devastating the Ghanaian fishing economy, resulting in estimates of a 40% fall in income rates for local fishermen.

An investigation by Associated Press found that Cameroon is becoming a favoured state for the registration of fishing vessels that are then suspected of IUU activities in the region and further afield.  

By example 14 vessels owned by companies based in EU countries – of a total of 80 from around the world – reflagged to the Cameroon flag between 2019 and 2021.

IUU in Cameroonian waters is also likely linked to wider criminal activity, e.g., in the past both artisanal and industrial fishing vessels have been intercepted by third parties and used for smuggling fuel, arms, other contraband and illegal migrants.  

An estimated 70 industrial fishing vessels that operate in the Cameroonian maritime area come from mainly China and Nigeria and over 80% of artisanal fishers come from Nigeria, Ghana, Benin and Togo.  

Exercise Obangame: US Sixth Fleet commander visits Lagos

Obangame Express (OE23), the largest multinational maritime exercise in Western and Central Africa, kicked off its 12th year with 33 participating nations. The exercise, hosted in Lagos, Nigeria, on the 27th of January 2023, featured both in-port and at-sea training scenarios including maritime operations center familiarization and exchanges on medical care, search and rescue operations, and boarding techniques.

Vice Adm. Thomas Ishee, commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet, arrived in Lagos, Nigeria for the opening ceremony. His visits also included engagements at the Western Navy Command, Naval Airbase Ojo, and the Joint Maritime Security Training Center. The meetings focused on enhancing relationships with senior government and military leaders and underscored the longstanding importance of U.S.- African maritime cooperation on mutual security interests within the region.

During the OE23 opening ceremony held at the Naval Dockyard, Vice Adm. Ishee delivered remarks alongside U.S. Consul General Will Stevens and the Flag Officer Commanding of Nigeria’s Western Naval Command, Rear Adm. Yakubu Wambai.

“The global importance and vast scale of the waters surrounding Africa provides an opportunity to work with our African partners to solve transnational issues,” said Ishee. “The work accomplished during Obangame Express strengthens regional cooperation and trust, ensuring African nations can continue protecting their coastal resources and sovereign waters.”

Read the full story here.