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Creating a Skilled Force to Patrol Waters off West Africa’s Coast

The more than 2.35-million square kilometre expanse of the Atlantic Ocean that borders on about 20 West African nations is known as “pirate alley”, where nearly all the world’s kidnappings at sea now take place since the water off Somalia in East Africa has become more secure. Bashir Jamoh, head of the Nigerian maritime administration and safety agency, said the a $195m US-backed “Deep Blue” initiative to deter pirate attacks in the world’s most dangerous area for seafarers, has stemmed recorded kidnappings in the second quarter of 2021, after a record 130 sailors in 2020, compared with five in the rest of the world. But there have already been 50 kidnappings logged this year and the US navy is helping with training and European navies are assisting in patrols, a mark of their concern for a region that is a key global supplier of crude oil. Lurking beneath the government’s new show of maritime strength is poverty in the Niger Delta, where nearly all West Africa’s pirates originate. Pollution in the region where international and local firms churn out Nigeria’s oil means people cannot farm or fish and 70% of its roughly 30-million people earn less than $1 per day, according to the UN. This makes piracy attractive.