IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos has urged the Government of Nigeria to intervene to help reduce the incidence of acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Gulf of Guinea and in the waters off the coast of Nigeria. Mr. Mitropoulos took the opportunity of a wide-ranging meeting with Nigeria's new Minister of Transport, Mr. Ibrahim Bio, which took place Feb. 20 at the IMO Headquarters in London, to stress that urgent action was needed to assure the international maritime community of Nigeria's commitment to address the problem on a priority basis.
Mr. Bio pledged to pass the Secretary-General's message on the issue to the Nigerian President. He also informed Mr. Mitropoulos that, as part of Nigeria's efforts to resolve the problem, the Government had created a special Ministry - the Niger Delta Ministry - which had been given full powers to address, among other topics, the problem of militancy and piracy. He added that, in 2008, Nigeria had organized an international conference on piracy and armed robbery against ships in the Niger Delta region and that an action plan, agreed at the Conference, was currently being implemented.
The visit, the first to IMO by the newly-appointed Transport Minister, was convened to help strengthen the working ties between Nigeria, an IMO Council Member, and the Organization. It covered a broad range of topics.
Mr. Bio took the opportunity to outline some of Nigeria's key maritime programmes in the areas of safety, security, marine environment protection and the human element. He reiterated Nigeria's resolve to continue implementing and enforcing the IMO instruments which it had already accepted, as well as its intention to ratify all outstanding treaties. So far, Nigeria has ratified over thirty IMO conventions.
Nigeria is, he said, working hard to implement the Long Range Identification and Tracking of Ships system and to complete the audit of its maritime training institutions, in line with the requirements of the International Convention on Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, 1978. To help address the worldwide shortage of seafarers, Nigeria had also commenced training young school leavers to take up seafaring as a profession, under a National Seafarers' Development Programme.
The Minister also confirmed that Nigeria had commenced a self-assessment and internal audit process, with a view to presenting itself for audit under the Voluntary IMO Member State Audit Scheme in the near future.
Responding, Secretary-General Mitropoulos expressed his appreciation for the visit and confirmed the very productive working relationship between Nigeria and IMO.
The Minister was accompanied on the visit by the Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Dr. Dalhatu S. Tafida.