21 April 2014, Lagos – In continuation of the fight against piracy and crude oil theft especially in the Gulf of Guinea, the Nigerian Navy and its counterparts from 21 countries, including the United States, will saturday hold a Joint Multinational Maritime Security exercise tagged ‘Operation Obangame’ in the Gulf of Guinea.
This is coming on the heels of the disclosure by the Nigerian Navy that it arrested 37 vessels in the first quarter of 2014 for carrying out illegal activities within the Nigerian maritime domain. The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin who was represented in Lagos during a press conference to announce the Joint Multinational Maritime Security exercise said the navy must continue to remain at sea to conduct patrol necessary for curbing the menace of crude oil theft.
Jibrin who was represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans of the NN, Rear Admiral Ameen Ikioda, said the NN was fit to combat illegality at sea with the available platforms, adding that they are geared towards a safer maritime domain.
Also, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command (WNC), Rear Admiral Sanmi Alade, while speaking to THISDAY about the exercise said: “It is expected to provide opportunities for all participating countries to look for a lasting solution to maritime illegalities.” Alade alongside the FOC, Naval Training Command (NAVTRAC), Rear Admiral Goddy Anyankpele and the Chief Security Officer, WNC, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ofik, said the participating countries include the navies of US, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, Angola, Ghana and Cameroun.
Others include Equatorial Guinea, Benin Republic, Cote Devoir, Gabon, Togo, Republic of Congo and Sao Tome and Principe, while South Africa is being expected as an observer.
The sea exercise which will kick off today with 14 foreign ships also has Nigerian Navy Ships (NNS) Thunder, Kyanwa, Zaria, Andoni, Ikot-Abasi, Benin, Ibusa, Dorina, Agede And Torie, as well as two NN Helicopters and Nigerian Air Force ATR 42 Aircraft, which will provide air cover in terms of surveillance, medical evacuation and search and rescue.
Alade said: “There is no doubt that the huge resources and potential in the Gulf of Guinea are being undermined by multifaceted domestic, regional and international threats and vulnerabilities.
“Rather than contributing to the stability and economic prosperity for countries in this region, pervasive insecurity in this resource-laden maritime environment has resulted in multi-billion dollars losses annually, significantly constrained investment and economic prospects, growing crime and potentially-adverse political consequences.
“Nigeria, like any other maritime nation relies on the sea for harvesting of resources, commerce and international trade. For some years, effort has been intensified to tackle the security challenges of piracy, poaching, smuggling, oil theft, trafficking and other transnational crimes.
“The challenges posed by sea-based crimes are such that no single nation is capable of effectively combating them all alone. The situation thus calls for synergy of efforts amongst maritime nations towards ensuring a safe and secured maritime environment.”
He said it was in this regard as well as to further consolidate the efforts of the Chief of Naval Staff, towards zero oil theft and other illegality, that the NN partnered the navies of 21 countries to conduct the multinational maritime security exercise.