The United States has explained that its presence in the Gulf of Guinea is aimed at protecting an area regarded as one of the richest sources of hydrocarbons in the world from international criminals.
“We hear a series of stories for our presence in the Gulf of Guinea, but I want to say that we are concerned for Nigeria and we want to help her protect the region from the hands of maritime criminals,” said the Commander of US Naval Forces in Europe and Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, Admiral Henry Ulrich.
“In all parts of the world, the US and any good nation want a safe coast for those countries who are supplying energy, and that is why we are often there. So there is nothing to fear for Nigeria,” Ulrich said at the ongoing Seapower Africa Symposium in Abuja, the Nigerian capital.
There have been insinuations in the local media that the US forces’ frequent patrol of the Gulf could be an indication of territorial ambition by the US aimed at attacking Nigeria.
But the US Naval official said it was necessary to secure the area from international criminals, including terrorists, sea pirates and smugglers.
The Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West Africa has tremendous oil and gas of more than 10 billion barrels.
The US interest in the Gulf of Guinea, bordered by Nigeria, Angola, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe, has been increasing amid rising oil exploration in the region, especially as West African Navy fleet lack the capacity to protect oil platforms in the
Statistics show that as of 2004, Africa as a whole produced nearly nine million barrels of oil per day, with approximately 4.7 million barrels per day coming from West Africa.
Also, African oil production accounted for approximately 11 percent of the world’s oil supply, while the continent supplied approximately 18 per cent of the US net oil imports.
Both Nigeria and Angola were among the top 10 suppliers of oil to the United States.
During a recent visit to Nigeria, Ulrich disclosed that the US plans to increase its naval presence in the Gulf of Guinea in order to ensure maritime safety in the region.