Assessing Security Vulnerabilities and Terrorism Threats to Nigerian Ports

Nigeria is a coastal country with a long coastline of about 853 km and a maritime domain of about 46,000 square kilometers. Nigeria has six major seaports and several oil terminals that handle over 80% of the country’s imports and exports. The seaports are vital for the economic development and security of Nigeria, as they facilitate trade, generate revenue, create employment, and support the oil and gas sector. However, the seaports also face various security challenges that threaten their operations and performance. These include piracy, armed robbery, stowaways, cargo theft, human trafficking, smuggling, vandalism, sabotage, and terrorism.

Piracy and armed robbery are the most prevalent security incidents in Nigerian waters, accounting for 46% of the total attacks in the Gulf of Guinea between 1991 and 2012 . Piracy involves attacks on ships in international waters, while armed robbery occurs within territorial waters. The pirates and robbers target ships carrying oil and other valuable cargo, such as containers, vehicles, and bulk commodities. They use speedboats, firearms, knives, and other weapons to board the ships, hijack them, rob the crew and passengers, kidnap some for ransom, and siphon or steal the cargo. Piracy and armed robbery pose serious risks to the safety of seafarers, the security of maritime trade, and the stability of the region.

Stowaways are another security challenge for Nigerian ports. Stowaways are people who hide on board ships without the consent or knowledge of the shipowner or master, usually with the intention of reaching another country illegally. Stowaways can cause various problems for the ship and the port authorities, such as increasing operational costs, delaying cargo clearance, violating immigration laws, spreading diseases, and compromising security. According to a report by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Nigeria ranked first among African countries in terms of stowaway cases between 2010 and 2014 .

Cargo theft is also a common security incident at Nigerian ports. Cargo theft involves stealing or pilfering goods from ships, containers, warehouses, or trucks at the port premises. Cargo theft can be perpetrated by port workers, truck drivers, customs officers, or external criminals. Cargo theft can result in financial losses for the shippers, consignees, insurers, and port authorities. It can also damage the reputation of the port and affect its competitiveness.

Human trafficking is another security challenge that affects Nigerian ports. Human trafficking is the illegal trade of people for the purpose of exploitation, such as forced labor, sexual slavery, or organ harvesting. Human trafficking can occur through various means, such as deception, coercion, abduction, or abuse of power. Human traffickers can use the port facilities to transport their victims across borders or to other destinations within Nigeria. Human trafficking violates human rights and dignity and contributes to social problems such as poverty, crime, and corruption.

Smuggling is another security challenge that Nigerian ports face. Smuggling is the illegal movement of goods or people across borders to avoid taxes, duties,
or regulations. Smuggling can involve various types of contraband items such as drugs,
counterfeit products,
or endangered species.
Smuggling can undermine
legitimate trade
revenue generation
the port
the country.
It can also pose health
safety risks
the public
the environment.

sabotage are other security challenges that Nigerian ports encounter.
Vandalism involves damaging
or destroying port property
or equipment,
such as cranes,
or cameras.
Sabotage involves deliberately disrupting
or harming port operations
or activities,
such as cutting off power supply,
setting fire to cargo,
or planting explosives.
and sabotage can be motivated by various factors,
such as political grievances,
economic interests,
or personal vendettas.
and sabotage can cause operational delays,
financial losses,
and physical injuries.

Terrorism is another security challenge that Nigerian ports face.
Terrorism involves using violence
or threats of violence to achieve political,
or ideological goals.
Terrorism can target port facilities,
or users for various reasons,
such as disrupting trade,
creating fear,
or attracting attention.
Terrorism can have devastating consequences for the port
the country,
such as loss of life,
damage to infrastructure,
disruption of services,
and erosion of confidence.

To address these security challenges,
Nigeria has adopted various measures
and initiatives at national
and international levels.
At the national level,
Nigeria has enacted laws
and regulations to enhance port security,
such as the Suppression of Piracy
and Other Maritime Offences Act 2019,
the Nigerian Ports Authority Act 2004,
and the Nigerian Maritime Administration
and Safety Agency Act 2007.
Nigeria has also established agencies
and units to enforce port security,
such as the Nigerian Navy,
the Nigerian Maritime Police,
the Nigerian Customs Service,
and the Port Facility Security Officers.
Nigeria has also invested in improving port infrastructure
and equipment,
such as installing surveillance cameras,
and scanners.

At the international level,
Nigeria has ratified
and implemented various conventions
and codes relating to port security,
such as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982,
the International Ship
and Port Facility Security Code 2002,
and the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation 1988.
Nigeria has also participated in regional
and bilateral cooperation
and initiatives to enhance port security,
such as the Gulf of Guinea Commission,
the Economic Community of West African States Maritime Zone E,
and the African Maritime Security Strategy.

However, despite these measures
and initiatives, port security challenges still persist in Nigeria.
This is due to various factors, such as:

– Inadequate funding
and resources for port security agencies
and units;
– Lack of coordination
and collaboration among port security stakeholders;
– Corruption
and collusion among port officials
and criminals;
– Ineffective prosecution
and punishment of port security offenders;
– Poor maintenance
and management of port facilities
and equipment;
– Low awareness
and compliance of port users with port security regulations;
– Complex
and dynamic nature of port security threats.

Therefore, to improve port security in Nigeria, the following recommendations are suggested:

– Increase funding
and resources for port security agencies
and units;
– Enhance coordination
and collaboration among port security stakeholders;
– Strengthen anti-corruption measures
and mechanisms at the port;
– Ensure effective prosecution
and punishment of port security offenders;
– Improve maintenance
and management of port facilities
and equipment;
– Raise awareness
and compliance of port users with port security regulations;
– Monitor
and adapt to emerging port security threats.


: Onwuegbuchunam, D.E., Aponjolosun, M.O., Igboanusi, C. and Okeke, K.O. (2021) Maritime Security Regimes and Impacts on Nigerian Seaports. Open Journal of Safety Science and Technology, 11, 158-170.

: International Maritime Organization (2015) Analysis of Stowaway Incidents for the Period 2010 to 2014. MSC 95/INF.8.

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