Regional leaders meet over security in Gulf of Guinea

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan will leave for Cameroon on Sunday ahead of a meeting of West and Central African leaders on maritime security in the pirate-infested Gulf of Guinea, his office said Saturday.

The Gulf of Guinea, which includes waters off Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, has emerged as a new danger-zone with pirates targeting fuel cargo and loading it onto other ships to sell on the lucrative black market, rather than seeking ransom to release ships, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said earlier this week.

The summit in Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital, "has been convened against the background of rising incidents of piracy in the resource-rich Gulf of Guinea", Jonathan's office said.

It said the Nigerian leader would join other leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) to deliberate on new proposals and a joint action plan to tackle piracy and maritime criminality in the region.

"Documents to be considered and ratified by heads of state at the summit include a memorandum of agreement among ECOWAS, ECCAS and the Gulf of Guinea Commission on maritime safety and security in West and Central Africa," it said.

The statement said the regional leaders would also discuss a code of conduct on the fight against piracy, armed robbery and illegal maritime activities.

"It is expected that at the conclusion of the summit, legal instruments for cooperation on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea will be adopted by participating heads of state and government," it added.

Jonathan was also expected to hold talks with his host President Paul Biya on cross-border security as well as the welfare of Nigerians living in Cameroon.

"He will meet with the Nigerian community in Cameroon before returning to Abuja on Tuesday," his office added.

The IMB said on Tuesday that West Africa has overtaken Somalia as the world's piracy hot-spot with 966 sailors attacked last year.

"The year 2012 marked the first time since the surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia that the reported number of both ships and seafarers attacked in the Gulf of Guinea surpassed that of the Gulf of Aden and of the western Indian Ocean," the report said.

Of the 206 hostages taken last year off West Africa, five were killed, it added.