Sea piracy and security challenges of maritime business operations in Bayelsa State

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2014

21 Pages



Statement of Problem
Objectives of the study
Significance of the study

Sea piracy: A conceptual clarification `
Sea Piracy and Fishing Business
Security Challenges and Maritime Operation
Theoretical Framework
Methodology of the Study
Discussion of Findings




This study examines sea piracy and security challenges of maritime business in Bayelsa State, Nigeria. To achieve the objectives of this study, three research hypotheses were formulated. A cross sectional survey research design was adopted; the population of the study comprise of maritime business operators in Bayelsa State, Nigeria. A Sample of 215 sea business operators in 9 waterfronts cutting across the three senatorial districts of Bayelsa State was selected by simple random sampling. A Likert Scale questionnaire on “Sea Piracy and Security Challenge” was developed by the researcher and administered to 24 respondents which formed part of data collected. The Routine Activity Theory which is associated with Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson was adopted as the theoretical guide of this study. Three null hypotheses were tested using regression analysis (r) at 0.05 level of significance. Results from the findings shows that, the three hypotheses were rejected. The study found amongst others, that sea piracy affects sea faring and fishing business significantly in Bayelsa State. It therefore recommends that concerted efforts aimed at increasing and equipping security agencies responsible for policing Bayelsa State territorial waters should be the major concern of the government and other stakeholders in the maritime sector.


No fewer than 80% of world’s trade carried out globally travels by sea. This represents around 93,000 merchant vessels, 1.25 million seafarers, and almost six billion tons of cargo yearly (Bowden, 2010).These figures show an increase in seaborne trade in recent times. Currently, the International Communities have witnessed one of the world’s oldest crimes against sea trade-sea piracy. Generally, African waters harbor important seaways of growing maritime concerns, namely the Coast of the Horn of Africa (HoA) and the Gulf of Aden (East Coast of Africa), and the Gulf of Guinea (West Coast of Africa). These waterways and availability of ports have becomes mine field for sea pirates. From 2007 to date, maritime operators have witnessed intense attacks. The attacks have been largely concentrated in waters off the coast of Nigeria and Somalia. In view of this, Nincic (2009) avers that maritime insecurity in Africa and in Nigeria waters in particular, has grown at a disturbing rate and threatens the global flow of goods and services across the world’s shipping lines. To Potgieter (2009), this portrays a pervasive maritime insecurity and a threat to economic growth in Africa.

Consequently, the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) and the surrounding ports and waterways suffer from a substantial amount of maritime criminal activity, ranging from illegal fishing, to robbery and militant activities against commercial assets. In Nigeria, Piracy and maritime militant activities are particularly prevalent in the waters and around the coast of the Niger Delta. It ranges from poaching and robbery especially in the waters off Lagos and within its ports, to attacks on ship and offshore facilities and the hijacking of vessels for ransom notably in the area near the Niger Delta including the Bayelsa waterways, Utawa – Opobo, Opobo- Andoni and Oron-Calabar waterways in Rivers and Akwa Ibom States.

The frequent attacks on the fishing activities led to the reduction of the numbers of trawlers from 250 to 150 in 2003 according to the chairperson of Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA). This poses significant challenge and cost on local fishing economies. In the same vein, Oyetunji (2012) reported the Nigerian minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy (Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala), to have lamented that piracy in the Gulf of Guinea have threatened about 600 million Dollars’ worth of fishing exports, as well as a loss of over 2 trillion Naira yearly in capital flight to foreign countries.

Statement of Problem

Sea Piracy is a serious problem in Bayelsa State. In fact the gravity of the crime is so intense that it has affected socioeconomic activities in the area. Government on many occasions have developed policy issues to tackle the crime, but yet very little or no positive result is achieved. Residents of the state, market women and commercial ferry operators who do business on the high sea and territorial waters have spoken openly and condemned the crime, yet the perpetrators are still carrying-out the heinous crime unabated. The police and other law enforcement officers particularly the navy have on several occasion warned the perpetrators of sea piracy to stay away from the waterways, yet each time such warning is given, it appears that the sea pirates intensify their effort to rob on high seas. This is problem and it has affected the household economy of many who live on proceeds derived from commercial activities on high seas. It has also affected the economy of the state at large that also benefits from taxing the operators of businesses on high seas. People who before normally travel by water no more does so because of fear of attack by sea pirates. Expatriates who had companies in the area are also folding up because of attack and kidnapping by hoodlums who operate on waterways. Many security operatives have lost their lives in the bid to control the crime. These and many others constitute the problem caused by sea piracy in Bayelsa State. Findings of previous studies (Badejo, 2000; Igbokwe, 2001; Onuoha & Hassan, 2009; and Ezem 2012) revealed that study on sea piracy tend to focus mainly on attacks on “big” commercial boats and the oil industry; as a result, “small” trawlers and fishermen, speedboat operators and traders are ignored whereas they are the first- victims of pirate’s onslaughte. Although studies exist on sea-piracy and national security (Ochai, 2013; Oyetunji, 2012; Onuoha and Hassan, 2009), available literature reveals that no research exists in this area of study linking insecurity and criminality to business growth in the maritime sector of Bayelsa State.

It is in view of the foregoing, that this study was undertaken. This study therefore contrast previous ones by studying sea piracy and security challenges of maritime business operation in Nigeria by so doing, fills the gap that exist in the literature.

Given all this, the questions that therefore arise are: How has sea piracy affected Bayelsa waterways? To what extent does sea piracy affect fishing business in Bayelsa State? What are the security challenges faced by maritime business operations in Bayelsa State?

Objectives of the study

The main objective of this paper is to examine Sea piracy and Security Challenges of Maritime Business operation in Nigeria, Bayelsa State. The specific objectives are to:

(a) Investigate if sea piracy poses security threat to Maritime business operation in Bayelsa State Territorial Waters?
(b) Examine whether sea piracy affects fishing business in Bayelsa State Territorial Waters?
(c) Assess whether sea piracy affects sea faring in Bayelsa State Territorial Waters?
(d) Make recommendations based on findings that could reduce waterways criminality so that security and maritime business operation could be enhanced in Bayelsa State in particular and the Nation at large.

Significance of the study

This study is important because it aims at improving maritime industry’s business operation and harness Nigeria’s economic growth through adequate security framework . The inclusion of Nigeria as hub of sea piracy calls for attention to unravel the root causes of Maritime piracy since it constitutes a security challenge to the nation’s maritime business operation.

This study is one of such deliberate attempt to identify and strategically address various factors that sustain the surge in Bayelsa State waterways which constitute a national security challenge. This study have proposed a strategic mechanism which could enhance a better synergy among security operatives, as well as address the issues of security interference by none security operatives (government officials and others). This study has also added to the build-up on literatures that explains and focuses on sea piracy and security challenges of maritime business operation in Bayelsa State. Finally, this study has complemented locality/geographical specific studies on maritime piracy (especially in Bayelsa State waterways), which can collaboratively address the issues of insecurity in their waterways.

The following hypotheses will guide the study:

i. There is no significant relationship between Sea piracy and Maritime business operation in Bayelsa state.
ii. There is no significant relationship between Sea piracy and fishing business in Bayelsa State
iii. Poaching does not significantly affect sea faring operation in Bayelsa State
iv. There is no significant relationship between Sea piracy and Security surveillance in Bayelsa territorial waters.


In this section of the study, the researcher presents a review of related literature with the following sub-headings:

Sea piracy: A conceptual clarification `

According to Onouha (2010) piracy is a term used to describe acts of armed robbery, hijacking and other malicious acts against ships in international waters. They are carried out with the intent of stealing valuables onboard or extorting money from ship owners or other third party interests by holding the ship or crew interests by holding the ship or crew to ransom. This definition has featured implicating factors that are against violence acts carried in local waters which does not meet the specification of 12 mile limit as specified in Vogt’s (1983) definition of piracy. However, the above definition has failed in terms of location, but has a strong point in the areas of intent and specification.

Section 101 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, defined maritime piracy as attack that occur on “the high sea” “outside the jurisdiction of any state”. Attacks that take place within the territorial waters are regarded as armed robbery. This definition is adopted because of its specification and captures the act / location (Bayelsa Territorial waters). Hence, this study defines sea piracy simply as sea robbery.

Sea Piracy and Maritime Transport

The increasing cases of piracy, sea robbery, illegal bunkering and unauthorized midstream discharges, among several other criminalities according to Ezem (2012), constitute a major source of concern to maritime administration in the Gulf of Guinea, including Nigeria. These acts constitute security threat to maritime transport. According to Igbokwe (2001), maritime transport which is also called waterborne transport, is one of the modes of transportation of goods and persons. This is essential to the proper operation of any country’s economy and a vital part of a nation’s transport infrastructure.

Igbokwe (2012) decried the increasing menace of piracy and armed robbery on Nigerian’s territorial waters particularly, Bayelsa waterways. He contends that piracy and robbery within Nigeria’s maritime domain was a disincentive to the needed inflow of foreign investment (including local businesses) to develop the economy.

To drive home the magnitude of attacks of sea pirates on seafarers in Nigerian waterways, the IMB reports (2012) show that 56 piracy cases were recorded on Nigeria’s territorial waters off the Gulf of Guinea in 2010 and 119 in 2011, as at September 2012, 37 attacks were recorded, an average of about four per month. NITOA (2008) fact also show that in 2003-2008, members Vessels that were attacked by pirates and armed robbers in Nigerian waters were 4, 11, 34, 57, 107 and 60 respectively. The above reports show the severity of the menace on maritime transport. According to Igbokwe (2012), Ezem (2012), Badejo (2000), the figures has far reaching implications on maritime transportation and seafaring business which is vital to the nation’s economy.

Igbokwe (2001) summarized other importance of sea transport to include facilitation of trade and commerce, revenue generation and availability of finance, promotion of tourism, development of related economic activities, employment and job opportunities, enhancement of industrial growth and development, institutional development, international relations and peaceful co-existence.

Sea Piracy and Fishing Business

It is estimated that Nigeria losses about 26.3 billion US dollars annually to various criminality including piracy and sea robbery. Specifically, Ezem (2012) in his report quoted the president of the Nigeria Trawlers Association (Mr. Joseph Overo) to have raised alarm over the menace of sea robbers, saying that “the industrial fishing sub-sector in Nigeria lost in excess of 119 billion naira in the last eight years in fishing revenue alone”. In his opening remarks during a workshop on: “harnessing the potentials of Nigeria’s maritime sector for sustainable economic development”. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (represented by minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy, Dr. NgoziOkonjo – Iweala), lamented that piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has threatened about 600 million US Dollars worth of fishing exports. According to him, the cost of piracy to our economy is unacceptably high. Pirates frustrating fishing activities and threaten investments in the West Africa Coast (Oyetunji, 2012).

Onuoha and Hassan (2009) have also noted the viability of fishing business to the nation’s economy. Maritime trade is a significant contributor to Nigeria’s economic development, especially in the area of fishing business. Ochai (2013) further observed that the price of sea foods is likely to increase soon if steps are not taken to check the increasing rate of sea pirates on the Nigerian waters. According to him, the activities of sea pirates have made fishing difficult; consequently, some of the fishermen have abandoned their trawlers because of t insecurity. NITOA (2008) has raised alarm over hijacks on fishing trawlers by pirates within Nigerian territorial waters. Ochai (2013) NITOA president, blamed the attacks on vessels on the inadequacy of security and management.

Security Challenges and Maritime Operation

Security challenges in the Nigerian waterways has been documented in the literature (Zabadi and Onuoha, 2009; Onuoha, 2009, Ochai, 2013). Security has a bugging impact on business operations within this sub-sector of the nation’s economy. According to report by Ochai (2013), since May 2013, there have been increasing reports of pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea including the waters of Nigeria and Bayelsa State. In response to this ugly development, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has rated the coastal parts bordering Lagos and the Bonny waters as one of the most piracy attack – prone areas of the world. According to the IMB (2013) report, Nigeria and Benin Republic have recorded more than 22 incidents of piracy in 2013 only, the highest ever recorded on the West African Coast.

Severally, these attacks have been aimed at oil tankers, Cargo Vessels, fishing trawlers and speed boats conveying passengers from one destination to another (Onuoha & Hassan, 2009) Also, (Ochaia, 2013) reports that speed boats were attacked with passengers onboard along Nembe waterways in Bayelsa State. In the same vein, pirates according to the report attacked four of the passengers speed boats which were conveying traders to Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State. Some of the passengers were ordered by the hoodlums to jump into the water after being dispossessed of their cash and other valuables. These scenarios paint an ugly picture on maritime business operations.

Fear and anxiety has become a constant companion of people living in the coastal areas of Bayelsa state, following the upsurge of criminal activities and frightening security challenges along its water ways. The incessant attacks by pirates on travelers, traders, fisher men/women, and inhabitants of the water ways around Brass, Nembe, South Ijaw, Ekeremor, and other hotspots route have made sea business operation more challenging than ever before.

These incidences occur on daily basis, leading to either loss or maiming of life and hijacking of fishing trawlers. Others who are simply fortunate to be alive, had to part with their hard earned income, or trading capital. Reports by (IMB, 2012 ) shows that sea piracy often attacked and robbed vessels, kidnapped crews, attacked trawlers and water ways traders, travelers and displaced them of their valuables and monies along the coast, rivers and surrounding waters of Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Bayelsa. Available data from IMB and Crime Diary of the Bayelsa State Police Command show that, of the over 8062 cases of attacks on sea between 2003-2013 (the comparison of the total sea attacks on Nigeria), sea robbery attacks on Bayelsa water ways stood at about 48 percent, while other water ways in Nigeria accumulate the remaining 52 percent (IMB, 2003 – 2013; NPF, 2010 – 2013).

The state of insecurity on Bayelsa water ways have generated concerns on the inadequacies of the various policies and strategies adopted so far by the Nigerian Maritime security comprising the Joint Military Taskforce (JTF), Marine Police, Nigerian Navy, National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA) among others to combat or arrest water ways criminality in the study area. Maritime business operators have attributed their situation to security inadequacies and incomprehensive security surveillance along the water ways. Others attribute it to government insensitivity, corruption among maritime security stakeholders, coupled with lack of alternative road networks.


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Sea piracy and security challenges of maritime business operations in Bayelsa State
Postgraduate research at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology
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bayelsa, state
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Dr. Adongoi Toakodi (Author), 2014, Sea piracy and security challenges of maritime business operations in Bayelsa State, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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