The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is currently organizing the 3rd Meeting of the ECOWAS Sub-Committee of the Chiefs of Naval Staff, which is taking place from October 15 to 16, 2023, in Lome, Togo. This highly anticipated event is aimed at reviewing and assessing the operations and functionality of the ECOWAS Maritime Centres, with the objective of strengthening maritime operations and combating illicit maritime activities in the region.
The primary purpose of this meeting is to evaluate the performance and effectiveness of the ECOWAS Maritime Centres, which will provide valuable insights for improving maritime operations and effectively dealing with illicit maritime activities in the ECOWAS region. Participants in this significant gathering include representatives from the ECOWAS Commission, ECOWAS Maritime Centres, Chiefs of Naval Staff from Member States, and their respective Heads of Operations.
During his opening speech, the Chief of Staff of the Togolese National Navy, Frigate Captain Atatoum Babaté, expressed that by organizing this meeting in Lome, ECOWAS shows its commitment to effective maritime governance and its desire to ensure peace, security, and prosperity in the West African sub-region. He also emphasized that member states have strengthened their individual and collective efforts in addressing threats related to maritime security, and stressed the importance of remaining united in combating maritime insecurity.
In his opening address, the Permanent Representative of ECOWAS in Togo, His Excellency, Barros Bacar BANJAI, on behalf of Ambassador Fatau Musa, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, commended the Member States for their contributions towards equipping the maritime security centers. He highlighted that significant progress has been made in reducing maritime attacks, with a decline from 68 attacks in 2018 to 50 in 2019, and further decreasing to 18 in 2021 and 15 in 2022. He attributed this positive trend to the cooperation and coordination among Member States and the international community.
Minister of Maritime Economy, Fisheries, and Coastal Protection, Honorable Kokou Edem TENGUY, underscored the importance of maritime security due to the significant flow of goods and equipment passing through the sea. While this contributes to economic development, it also poses risks of illicit activities linked to maritime insecurity. He assured that Togo, as the host country, remains committed to participating in the ECOWAS maritime strategy and the fight against maritime piracy and illicit activities through the establishment of multinational maritime centers.
The Multinational Maritime Coordination Centres (MMCCs) play a crucial role in the ECOWAS maritime security architecture. These centres, along with the Regional Centre for Maritime Security in West Africa (CRESMAO) in Côte d'Ivoire, have significantly enhanced maritime security in the region and have led to a decrease in piracy and theft incidents at sea.
In parallel to the Chiefs of Naval Staff meeting, the 7th International Symposium of the Gulf of Guinea is scheduled to take place in Lome, Togo from October 18 to 19, 2023. This simultaneous gathering will provide a platform to discuss broader issues related to the Gulf of Guinea, including its challenges and potential solutions.
The ultimate goal of the Sub-Committee of Chiefs of Staff of the ECOWAS Navy meeting is to have a fruitful and productive session that will result in the preparation of a comprehensive report to be submitted to ECOWAS management.