Maritime kidnappings in West Africa increase significantly in 2018


The first four months of 2018 (January-April) saw a substantial increase in the number of people kidnapped by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) and the Niger Delta compared to the same period in 2017. NYA MarTrackTM data shows a total of 59 individuals were kidnapped between January and April following the hijacking of the vessels they were aboard. In the first four months of 2017 the figure was 31.

MarTrack recorded 15 hijackings in the GoG between 1 January and 30 April. Of these, there were only three instances in which no crewmembers or passengers were abducted. With an average of four individuals abducted per hijacking incident and a significant increase of 88% in the overall number of recorded hijackings compared with January – April 2017, the threat of piracy in the GoG remains at a severe level.

MarTrack data shows that a total of 104 persons were kidnapped in the GoG or in the creeks and waterways of the Niger Delta in 2017. The current trend is likely to continue, which means that 2018 may well see an increase in the total number people abducted.


The majority of hijackings which occurred between January – April 2018 were concentrated either in the traditional area of heightened pirate activity – south of Port Harcourt, Nigeria or off the coast of Benin. As noted in a recent NYA Insight article, there has been an expansion in the number of hijackings taking place outside of Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in 2018.

Hijackings involving the kidnapping of crewmembers or passengers also increased in the waterways and creeks of the Niger Delta between January and April 2018. In a notable incident on 20 April, pirates attacked a passenger boat carrying a number of local politicians in San Bartholomeo, Rivers state. The perpetrators killed two passengers and abducted two others, demonstrating the level of violence that characterises such incidents in the area. Vessel operators should expect incidents throughout 2018 within Niger Delta internal waterways, at GoG ports and offshore as far west as Togo.


At the time of writing there is little evidence to suggest there will be a meaningful improvement in the maritime security situation in the GoG, and especially in the Nigerian EEZ. This is despite the Nigerian government’s decision on 9 May to spend an additional USD186 million on anti-piracy operations. The continued instability in the Niger Delta states is almost certain to remain, perpetuating the current environment where a myriad of armed criminal groups are able to operate relatively freely – both inland and at sea.

The Nigerian presidential election scheduled for February 2019 is an additional factor that will likely contribute to persistent insecurity in the GoG – especially off the Niger Delta in the second half of 2018. Rebel and criminal militant groups in volatile coastal areas will most likely step up their activity in an attempt to gain leverage over government officials involved in the election process.

The government of incumbent President Buhari – who is seeking re-election – will probably try to appease Niger Delta militants, however deep-rooted grievances will remain unaddressed in the short term.

In the run up to the 2015 presidential elections, Nigeria witnessed increased levels of security incidents both onshore and offshore, including maritime kidnap for ransom and piracy attacks. Stakeholders therefore advised that maritime kidnappings will continue to occur frequently in the region throughout mid and late 2018.


NYA offers sophisticated vessel tracking software and a 24/7 incident alert service to inform our clients if one of their vessels is in close proximity to a significant piracy incident such as a hijacking, an attack or a sighting of a pirate action group. NYA provides analytical reports combining qualitative analysis and MarTrack incident data to inform and advise clients on regional threats and current security trends. Get in touch with NYA today if you want to find out more about how our services can help you understand the threats to your people, property, and reputation either by email or by telephone: 0044 207 291 7700.

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*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from NYA authored by Alison Burrell. Read the original post at:

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