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Cameroon go-to country for foreign fishing vessels

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The Trondheim is a familiar sight off the coast of West Africa — a soccer field-sized ship, plying the waters from Nigeria to Mauritania as it pulls in tons of mackerel and sardines, flying the red, yellow and green flag of Cameroon.

But aside from the flag, there is almost nothing about the Trondheim that is Cameroonian.

Once, it operated under the name of the King Fisher and sailed under the flag of the Caribbean nation St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Then, it switched to Georgia, the former Soviet republic.

It was only in 2019 that it began flying the banner of Cameroon.

The Trondheim is one of several vessels that have been reflagged under Cameroon’s growing fishing fleet which have changed names and been accused of illicit activities at sea. Currently, 14 of these vessels are owned or managed by companies based in European Union member states: Belgium, Malta, Latvia and Cyprus, an investigation by The Associated Press found.

« They’re interested in the flag, they’re not interested in Cameroon, » said Beatrice Gorez, coordinator for the Coalition for Fair Fisheries Arrangements, a group of organizations highlighting the impacts of EU-African fisheries arrangements that identified the recent connection between companies in EU member states and the Cameroon fleet.

Each of the vessels changed flags to Cameroon between 2019 and 2021, though they had no obvious link to the country and did not fish in its waters. The Trondheim and at least five others have a history of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, according to a report by the environmental group, Greenpeace. Both the vessels and their owners conceal what they catch, where it goes and who is financially benefiting from it, maritime and company records show.

In recent years, Cameroon has emerged as one of several go-to countries for the widely criticized « flags of convenience » system, under which companies can — for a fee — register their ships in a foreign country even though there is no link between the vessel and the nation whose flag it flies.

The ships are supposed to abide by that nation’s fishing agreements with other countries. But experts say weak oversight and enforcement of fishing fleets by countries with open registries like Cameroon offer shipping companies a veil of secrecy that allows them to mask their operations.

That secrecy, the experts say, also undermine global attempts to sustainably manage fisheries and threatens the livelihoods of millions of people in regions like West Africa. Cameroonian officials say all the ships that fly its flag are legally registered and abide by all of it laws. But regulators in Europe recently warned the country that its inability to provide oversight of its fishing fleet could lead to a ban on fish from the country.

Cameroon’s flagged fishing fleet is minuscule compared to countries such as Liberia, Panama or the Marshall Islands. But the rapid adoption of the country’s flag by some shipping companies accused of illegal fishing is raising alarm.

« This is a big issue, » said Aristide Takoukam, a biologist and founder of the African Marine Mammal Conservation Organization, a non-profit based in Cameroon that monitors illegal fishing. « I don’t think Cameroon is able to monitor these vessels that are flying Cameroon flags outside its waters. »

Cameroon has long been criticized for lax oversight of its fishing fleet. A study published last year in the journal African Security documented deep-rooted corruption in the ministries that oversee the fishing industry. In that same year, the European Commission issued a « yellow card » to the country, warning it to step up its actions against illegal fishing.

The commission identified a series of shortcomings, including that the country had registered several fishing vessels — some of them accused of illegal fishing — under its flag in the past months, raising concerns about the nation’s ability to efficiently control and monitor the activities of its fleet.

If Cameroon does not comply after its initial warning, the commission can issue a « red card, » effectively listing them as a non-cooperating country. And it can ban their fish products from entering EU markets.

The commission’s report named a dozen fishing vessels registered between 2019 and 2020 whose names were not provided to them by Cameroonian authorities. At least eight of the 12 identified vessels are managed or owned by European companies. The AP found six more vessels not included in the EU report.

The European Commission did not respond to the AP’s requests for comment.

Data from Windward and Lloyd’s List Intelligence, two maritime intelligence companies, reveals an accelerated growth in the number of vessels that sail under the Cameroonian flag in the past four years, from 14 vessels in 2018 to more than 129 in 2022. According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, Cameroon’s fishing capacity is now nine times larger than it was before 2018.

While the number of flagged ships has grown, the resources to monitor them have not kept pace, a review of budget documents show. The documents show that the budget for the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries’ control and supervision of fisheries declined 32 percent from 2019 to last year.

While countries have a right to allow vessels to adopt their nationality and fly their flag, Article 91 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea requires a « genuine link » to be established between a vessel and its flag state.

Despite this, foreign vessels in countries with open registries often have little to no relationship with their flag state. The responsibility falls on the flagged country to control operations of the vessels in their fleet.

Paul Nkesi, a representative of the agency that oversees fisheries, the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries, says that although the government recognizes the need to step up its surveillance of industrial trawlers, all vessels are registered lawfully in Cameroon.

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Pelumi Nubi: Pioneering Adventure from London to Lagos

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In a world of 195 countries, the name Pelumi Nubi stands out. At the youthful age of 27, she had already set foot in 77 of them, spanning six continents. But it wasn’t until January 24th that Nubi embarked on a journey that would etch her name in the annals of history as the first Black woman to travel from London to Lagos by road.

Setting out from London, Pelumi Nubi, a UK-based Nigerian global traveler and content creator, embarked on a monumental adventure fueled by a desire to inspire others and showcase the beauty of Africa. Her journey spanning over two months.

The route was ambitious, stretching from England to France, then down to Spain and Morocco. From there, Nubi navigated the treacherous terrain of the West Sahara desert before crossing into Mauritania, Senegal, and a host of West African countries, including The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Ghana, Togo, and Benin, not just passing through each city, pelumi ensures she spend a couple of days showcasing the food, tourist attraction and hospitality of Africans

However, the road was not without its challenges. Pelumi encountered obstacles such as a 24-hour hold at the Liberian border and being denied entry to Sierra Leone. In Ivory Coast, she faced a terrifying accident that damaged her car. Yet, undeterred by these setbacks, she pressed on, fueled by determination and the unwavering belief in her mission.

After covering a staggering 10,000 kilometers (over 6,200 miles) in her trusty purple Peugeot 107, affectionately named « lumi, » Nubi finally arrived at her ultimate destination – the vibrant city of Lagos, Nigeria. Her journey was not only a testament to her resilience but also a celebration of African diversity and unity.

In recognition of her remarkable feat, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, honored Pelumi Nubi by naming her as a Lagos Tourism Ambassador. Additionally, she was presented with a house and a branded LAGRIDE vehicle, bearing the custom number plate « NUBI 9JA. »

But perhaps the most poignant moment came when Nubi decided to part ways with her beloved travel companion, lumi. Donating the car to the Lagos State Museum, she expressed her hope that it would inspire others to seek adventure and explore the world.

Pelumi Nubi’s journey from London to Lagos is more than just a road trip; it’s a testament to the human spirit’s boundless capacity for adventure and exploration. Through her bravery and determination, she has not only made history but also inspired countless others to embark on their own journeys of discovery. As she continues to blaze trails and push boundaries, Pelumi Nubi remains a beacon of inspiration for adventurers and dreamers around the world.

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AIR PEACE LAUNCHES LAGOS-LONDON FLIGHT SERVICES: A MILESTONE FOR NIGERIAN AVIATION

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Nigerians are celebrating a significant milestone in the aviation sector as Air Peace announces the commencement of its Lagos-London flight services. Allen Onyema, the Chief Executive Officer of Air Peace, revealed that the airline has already sold out tickets for these flights until September, reflecting the overwhelming demand for this new route.

 

The inauguration of the Lagos-London flights on March 30 marked a historic moment for Air Peace, Nigeria’s flag carrier. Speaking in an interview with Arise TV, Onyema expressed his optimism for the future of the airline, emphasizing its plans to expand its fleet to over 60 aircraft.

 

From the moment Air Peace published its fares, the response has been remarkable. The inaugural flight sold out within days, with bookings stretching all the way to September. Despite the challenges faced in the last 48 hours, including negotiations with Gatwick Airport over security deposits, the airline remains steadfast in its commitment to providing exceptional service.

 

Onyema raised pertinent questions regarding the disparity in security deposit requirements between Nigerian airlines and foreign carriers operating in Nigeria. He questioned whether British Airways and Virgin Atlantic pay similar amounts to Nigerian airports and highlighted the need for fair treatment and transparency in international aviation regulations.

 

The journey to launching the Lagos-London route was not without obstacles. Onyema revealed that it took seven years of perseverance and strategic planning to overcome internal and external challenges. Despite facing setbacks, Air Peace remained determined to provide Nigerians with a world-class travel experience.

 

The overwhelming support from both Nigerian and UK citizens has been instrumental in Air Peace’s success. The airline extends its gratitude to the Nigerian population for their unwavering support and promises to continue making the nation proud.

 

Air Peace made history with its inaugural flight on March 31, as the Boeing 777 aircraft touched down at Gatwick Airport in London. The company has responded to the high demand by increasing seat capacity on the route, further demonstrating its commitment to meeting the needs of travelers.

 

As Nigeria’s aviation industry continues to evolve, it is crucial to recognize the contributions of visionary leaders like Allen Onyema. His dedication to advancing the sector reflects a broader commitment to driving economic growth and prosperity in Nigeria.

 

While challenges persist, including disparities in international aviation regulations, there is hope for a brighter future. With continued support from stakeholders and concerted efforts to address systemic issues, Nigerian aviation can reach new heights of success.

 

In conclusion, the launch of Air Peace’s Lagos-London flights represents a significant achievement for Nigerian aviation and underscores the potential for further growth and development in the sector. As Nigerians, we stand united in celebrating this milestone and look forward to a future of expanded opportunities and connectivity in the skies.

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SENEGAL WITNESSES HISTORIC INAUGURATION: FROM PRISONER TO PRESIDENT IN WEEKS

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In a remarkable turn of events, Senegal has witnessed the inauguration of Bassirou Diomaye Faye as its president, marking the culmination of a swift and dramatic rise for the once well-known opposition. Faye, a left-wing pan-Africanist, assumed office after securing a landslide victory in the March 24 elections, with his reform platform. At just 44 years old, he now holds the record of being the youngest president in Senegal’s history.

Taking the oath of office amidst anticipation and hope, Faye pledged to fulfill his duties as president with unwavering dedication. « Before God and the Senegalese nation, I swear to faithfully fulfill the office of president of the Republic of Senegal, » he declared in Diamniadio, near the capital, Dakar. His commitment extended to upholding the constitution, defending national integrity, and championing African unity.

The transition of power, formalized with outgoing President Macky Sall, signifies a significant moment in Senegal’s political landscape. Faye’s journey to presidency was not without hurdles, notably his recent release from prison less than two weeks before the election, alongside his mentor, Ousmane Sonko, following a political amnesty announced by Sall.

For many Senegalese, Faye’s ascension represents a triumph of democracy and the rule of law, For most Senegalese youth this victory a culmination of a long struggle for democracy and the rule of law… This is a day of celebration for everyone.

The election itself served as a litmus test for Senegal’s democratic stability within West Africa. Months of unrest preceding the polls, fueled by concerns over constitutional term limits and allegations of corruption, underscored the nation’s commitment to democratic principles. Faye’s victory resonated particularly with the youth, who expressed frustration over issues such as unemployment and perceived exploitation by former colonial powers.

In his inaugural address, Faye, affectionately known as Diomaye, reiterated his pledge to combat corruption and implement economic reforms. A practicing Muslim hailing from a modest background, Faye emphasized transparency by publicly disclosing his assets before the election, setting a precedent for accountability in leadership.

The appointment of Ousmane Sonko as prime minister further solidifies Faye’s commitment to inclusive governance and coalition-building. The swift formation of a new government signals a fresh chapter in Senegal’s political landscape, one marked by optimism and aspirations for positive change.

As Africa’s youngest elected president, Faye embodies the hopes and aspirations of a new generation. His rapid ascent from political prisoner to head of state underscores the resilience of Senegal’s democracy and the power of collective determination in shaping the nation’s future.

 

In a gesture of regional solidarity and support, the president of Nigeria, His Excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who serves as the chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), felicitated with the new president. This demonstration of camaraderie highlights the interconnectedness of West African nations and the shared commitment to fostering peace, stability, and prosperity across the region. As Senegal embarks on a new chapter under Faye’s leadership, the congratulatory messages from neighboring states serve as a testament to the significance of this historic moment for the entire continent.

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