UN Grants Nigeria Additional Maritime Territory

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UN Grants Nigeria Additional Maritime Territory

 

CHIGOZIE AMADI

President Bola Tinubu has hailed the efforts of the High Powered Presidential Committee (HPPC) on Nigeria’s Extended Continental Shelf Project, which worked over many years for the extension of Nigeria’s maritime boundaries in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), 1982.

The president expressed his appreciation to the team of experts yesterday in Abuja after receiving their report.

The report contained a United Nations approval granting Nigeria about 16,300 square kilometres in additional maritime territory, which is about five times the size of Lagos State.

Tinubu listened to technical presentations by Professor Larry Awosika, a marine scientist and member of the committee, and Surveyor Aliyu Omar, Secretary of the HPPC.

According to a statement issued by Media Adviser to the President, Ajuri Ngelale, the experts have been involved in the project since Nigeria’s initial submission to extend its continental shelf to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in 2009.

They informed the president that the United Nations had approved Nigeria’s submission, granting sovereignty over additional square kilometres of maritime territory.

Omar told the president, “When the HPPC briefed former President Muhammadu Buhari in 2022 on the status of the project, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) was still considering Nigeria’s submission and having technical interactions with the HPPC.

”These interactions and consideration have now culminated in the approval for Nigeria to extend its continental shelf beyond 200m (200 nautical miles).

”As it stands now, the area approved for Nigeria is about 16,300 square kilometres, which is about five times the size of Lagos State.”

He added that the official notification of the decision was conveyed to Nigeria by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in August 2023, shortly after Tinubu assumed office.

Omar outlined the available options for Nigeria following the approval:

According to him: ”The first option is to take the area gained and finalise the registration with the UN Secretary-General and close everything, meaning that we are satisfied with what we got. This will take at least one year.

”The second option is to take what we have right now, acquire more data, do a support write-up, and make a revised submission as recommended by CLCS for further consideration. This will take another four years.

”Either way (options), Nigeria will keep what has been approved.”

In his presentation, Awosika explained that the approval came after years of meticulous scientific research on geophysics, geology, geography, and diplomatic efforts, which solidified Nigeria’s legal rights over a vast expanse of seabed and subsoil beyond its traditional territorial waters.

The university don highlighted the economic potential of the newly acquired territory, which included hydrocarbons, gas, solid minerals, and a wide variety of sedentary species.

He, however, cautioned against total disclosure of sensitive data acquired during surveys, stating that this would jeopardise confidentiality, as Nigeria was expected to monetise the information to recover project expenses.

Responding, Tinubu thanked the experts for their diligence, and emphasised the significance of the achievement for Nigeria’s economic and strategic interests.

“This is big congratulations for Nigeria,” he said, while recounting how Buhari had briefed him on the importance of the project.

He said, “At COP28 in Dubai, I also exchanged views with President Lula of Brazil on the need for collaboration within our economic and maritime boundaries.

”Today, it is a great honour for me to receive this report. I have listened attentively to this very specialised report, and I know it took a whole lot of effort to get to this stage.

”I commend the team, and we must take advantage of this and invite you again to have a repeat of this knowledge exploration on geography, hydrography, and the marine life.

”Nigeria is grateful for the efforts that you put into gaining additional territory for the country without going to war. Some nations went to war, lost people and economic opportunities.

”We lost nothing but have gained great benefits for Nigeria. We will pursue the best option for the country”.