countries with significant reserves, like Sudan. Yet that is not the sum of the U.S. interest in Nigeria, for the United States is also its best customer, buying 46 per- cent of all the oil it produces daily. Indeed, it is the fifth largest exporter of oil to the United States, supplying some 11 percent of all the crude the country imports.8
To better safeguard this important energy supply, the United States is helping establish a dedicated naval force to improve maritime security in the notoriously dangerous waters off the Nigerian coast. Envisaged as a combined force made-up of U.S., Nigerian, Equato- rial Guinean, and British naval assets, the main pur- pose of the Gulf of Guinea Guard Force (GGGF)—as it will be called—will be to protect shipping and oil rigs from pirates operating out of the Niger Delta. The ur- gency of this task has grown significantly over the past 2 years as the number of attacks against vessels and sailors has increased.
Indeed, the issue came to something of a head on February 11, 2008, when a Nigerian navy gunboat was fired upon in the Kalaibaiama Channel close to Bony Is- land after it disturbed pirates who were in the process of attacking a vessel belonging to Total Oil Nigeria. It led the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to warn Nigeria’s FG that the country risked being black- listed if it did not improve security in its territorial wa- ters. Some shipping lines have already taken unilateral action to protect their ships and crews. For example, in January 2008 the Maersk Group suspended all its op- erations to the port of Onne in Rivers State following an attack on a tanker in Port Harcourt harbour.
Following Maersk’s announcement, the Nigerian Vice-President, Goodluck Jonathan, moved to allay the international community’s fears by restating the FG’s determination to tackle militancy in the Niger Delta. But despite his efforts, on February 12, the Internation-