The Nigerian president and chairman of ECOWAS, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, played host to the president of Benin Republic, Boni Yayi, who arrived Nigeria on Sunday afternoon to discuss how to strengthen ties between the two countries to combat piracy, as well as bring development in the ECOWAS sub region.
There was a brief airport reception before the two leaders entered into talks that lasted for about one hour at the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport.
Top on the agenda at the meeting was improving the joint border patrol code named Operation Fire for Fire designed to stop criminals from smuggling in small arms. The operation is also geared toward forestalling pirate activities off the coast, a growing problem for both countries.
Piracy off the coast of Western Africa has always plagued the oil-rich Nigeria, but it would seem the problem is spilling over. According to media reports, Benin has seen at least 20 piracy incidents so far this year compared, a huge increase considering there were no pirate activities off the Benin coast in 2010.
The country is combating piracy, sending out armed speedboats to patrol the pirate-infested seas. They also joined forces with Nigeria and the joint Nigerian-Benin patrols are expected to include a surveillance ship with more weaponry.
Reports quote sources in the Benin navy who say the initiative will last six months, and by that time Benin should be able to supervise its own waters.
Michael Howlett of the International Maritime Bureau, speaking to the press, said the increase in attacks off Benin “is very much a cause for concern.”
“The security arrangements in Nigeria have been beefed up and that may have forced or displaced the problem temporarily to Benin.”
Mr. Yayi, after the meeting at the presidential wing of the airport today, told journalists that the border patrol has been working well and it has become necessary to review the efforts so far.