Abuja – President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday urged members of the minerals-rich Gulf of Guinea to work together to curb piracy and insecurity in the region, his office said.

Pirates have been taking advantage of poor of security in the Gulf to cause incalculable damage to local countries, Buhari told Prime Minister of Sao Tome & Principe Patrice Emery Trovoada in Abuja.

"With their shared strategic interest in the security of the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria and Sao Tome & Principe must work harder with other stakeholders to keep it safe," Buhari was quoted as saying.

The Gulf of Guinea off west Africa has seen numerous attacks on ships in recent years, sparking concern it could become a new hub for piracy.

From hijacking cargo ships and syphoning off their fuel to illegal fishing and transporting contraband, seafaring robbers are squeezing the region's economy.

Between January and September 2014, there were 33 incidents of piracy and armed robbery, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

By contrast, incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia in eastern Africa — once a global hub for pirates — have significantly fallen in the past three years.