Fragility, violence and criminality in the Gulf of Guinea.

By Dr. Elisa Lopez Lucia – The Gulf of Guinea is rich in oil and gas, and a major international trade route. While oil wealth in the context of weak governance and under-development is creating tensions leading to criminality and violence, high geostrategic stakes provide the incentives for national, regional and international actors to seek solutions.

This rapid literature review analyses the causes, dynamics and responses to maritime security issues in three concentrated areas: the Niger Delta, the Bakassi peninsula and along the West African coast between Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire. It shows that the many actors who are either directly involved in or enabling criminality in the region maintain complex relationships.

The main structural causes driving maritime insecurity are closely linked to the fragility of GoG states: oil wealth in the context of weak governance and under-development creates tensions that lead to criminality and violence. These factors interact with proximate causes such as weak law enforcement and transnational trafficking, creating a self-reinforcing nexus among state fragility, criminality and violence. The Niger Delta appears to be the epicentre of violence, from which criminality and violence is radiating to Nigeria’s neighbours.

National, regional and international responses tend to focus on the symptoms of maritime security with initiatives building the weak law enforcement capacities of GoG states and developing regional cooperation and coordination. These do not address the root causes that create incentives for people to get involved in criminal activities. It is suggested that these responses are driven by international partners protecting their oil and economic interests in the region, rather than national agendas focused on the challenges and needs of coastal communities.

Recommendations from the literature:

  • Continue to improve the law enforcement capacities of GoG states
  • Continue to develop regional cooperation between the Economic Community of West African States, the Gulf of Guinea Commission, and the Economic Community of Central African States
  • Address root causes ‒ on-shore governance and development problems ‒ with greater involvement from private actors, particularly CSOs
  • Enable the agenda on maritime security issues to be driven by locally defined priorities and needs.

To read the full study (July 2015) please click here.

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