West African leaders call for an International Naval force to fight Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea
West African leaders have called for the deployment of an international naval force to control the growing threat of piracy off the Gulf of Guinea. The call was made on Monday in Cameroon where 25 heads of state and government met to discuss a coordinated regional and international response to piracy, drug trafficking, armed robbery and other illegal maritime activities in the Gulf of Guinea. Contributing to the debate, the president of Ivory Coast, Alassane Wattara, said there are now more pirate attacks off West Africa than off the coast of Somalia. He appealed to the international community to show the same firmness in the Gulf of Guinea as they have shown in the Gulf of Aden, where the presence of international naval forces has helped to reduce pirate activities. Maritime officials said the highest risk area for pirate activity in West Africa is off the coast of Nigeria. West African pirates mostly steal fuel cargo and the crews' possessions, often by using violent means such as wounding and killing the crew. Last year they took hostage 206 seamen and have so far killed five. In a related development, the Chairperson of the African Union Dlamini-Zuma disclosed at the same meeting that African countries had lost 200 US billion dollars in the last 50 years to illegal fishing and another 100 US billion dollars to oil stealing since 2003.