A rise in pirate attacks off Nigeria's coast
Turmoil in the oil-rich Niger Delta region is spreading out to sea as gangs in speedboats attack trading ships.
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That's a result of increased pirate activity in two African countries – war-torn Somalia, which has no effective central government, and Nigeria.Skip to next paragraph
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What is the solution?
Here in Nigeria, improved security and more naval patrols are the solution, say maritime representatives.
"We do know that Nigeria has a strong Navy and we're quite confident that if the Navy increased the number of patrols and responded to calls for help faster and made their presence felt more than they do now, then there definitely will be a fall in the number of attacks," says Cyrus Mody, manager of the IMB.
In February, the US Navy ran a maritime surveillance exercise for members of the Nigerian Navy and Air Force to tackle illegal operations, including piracy, in Nigerian waters. The US receives about one-fifth of its oil imports from the Gulf of Guinea, which includes Nigerian territorial waters, and the US Navy has been increasing its presence in the region for several years, according to the US State Department.
The Nigerian government has set up a special subcommittee to find a solution to the pirate problem and says it will add 15 patrol boats. "The government has put additional security in place but has not detailed some of those measures," says Yemi Nelson, the assistant director of press in the Ministry of Agriculture, which covers fisheries.
However, many Nigerian pirates are frequently better equipped than some Naval patrols. The pirates use machine-gun mounted speedboats and carry semi-automatic machine guns. They use hand-held radios so several boats can stage coordinated attacks. They pride themselves on having something of a military flair, often wearing military camouflage or giving their leaders titles like "General."
As well as their AK-47s, the pirates that attacked Captain Johnson carried machetes. They explained to Johnson that they had no fear of being caught as they had backing from top Nigerian officials, or "Big Men."
After taking the ship, the nine pirates slept in rotation. They warned the injured chef that if he made a noise, they'd shoot him again.
Later, they stripped the boat of navigational and communication equipment, air-conditioning units, and personal possessions of the crew – including the captain's shoes and socks.
They used Johnson's boat as a decoy, pulling right alongside their second target before springing aboard. By the time the pirates left Johnson and his crew, they were fourteen hours from Lagos harbor and a hospital. The cook died before they reached the wharf.