Danish anti-piracy action ruffles feathers in Gulf of Guinea states

The recent deployment of a Danish frigate with lethal force on Gulf of Guinea pirates has not been met with universal approval in the Gulf of Guinea states.

Dr Dakuku Peterside, ex-Director of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), said in March, before the frigate action but after Denmark said it would send a frigate to patrol the Gulf of Guinea, “When small countries like Denmark provide security to Gulf of Guinea, what does that say about Nigeria’s image as Africa’s economic giant?”

He said that Nigeria should collaborate with sister nations around the Gulf of Guinea to provide adequate security for the maritime sector.”

In a firefight with the pirates, four were killed and another four were arrested after they surrendered and laid down their arms.

The operation happened 25 to 30 nautical miles south of Nigeria’s territorial boundary. It was the first time a foreign navy had resorted to lethal force in dealing with pirates in the region.

While several international shipping associations praised the Danes for their response to a potential piracy activity, stakeholders in the Gulf of Guinea were less enthusiastic about the fact that it was a foreign state that took the action.

The Nigerian Maritime Law Association (NMLA) called for an independent inquiry that would look into the precise location of the incident. It was mainly concerned with preserving Nigeria’s sovereignty, according to local reports. “The Association supports all efforts to rid the Gulf of Guinea of piracy, maritime offences and all forms of criminality. It is concerned, however, about the sanctity of Nigeria’s sovereignty, application of the rule of law and respect of protocols of engagement with regard to the instant incident, and the emerging security regime in the Gulf of Guinea”, an NMLA statement said.

The general response appears to have been that Gulf of Guinea states should stop being protective of their own territorial waters and should join an international alliance of West African states to patrol the entire region. However, it has been observed that it is Nigeria that is the most voluble country when it comes to this idea, and would have the largest part of any such alliance operation. The concerns of the smaller states are that it could be seen as a Nigerian power grab. In that sense, the smaller states are less discontent that it was a Danish frigate doing the job than they might be if it were a Nigerian one.