16 March 2015, Lagos – In a move to checkmate activities of piracy and crude oil theft in the Gulf of Guinea, the Nigerian Navy,NN in collaboration with 21 other countries, among them , the United States of America and United kingdom, are to engage in a maritime security exercise tagged ‘Operation Obangame Express’ .The exercise is billed to commence on March 19 to March 27, 2015.
Briefing journalists on the exercise which opening and closing ceremony will be held in Ghana, the Flag Officer Commanding,FOC Western Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Jonathan Ango, explained that the objective of the exercise was among other things to access the ability of the partnering units to conduct maritime support operations, with emphasis placed on regional framework.
The multinational training exercise which according to him was organised by the United States of America African command would also provide training support and capacity building for navies of coastguards of the Gulf of Guinea’s countries, with participants drawn from Military and law enforcement forces from the gulf of guinea.
Nigeria, he said had been participating in the exercise for four years. For this year’s exercise, Ango disclosed that three vessels comprising of NNS Thunder, Okpabana and Centenary as well as one Shaldaq boat, NNS Ikot-Abasi, with a Nigerian Air Force maritime patrol aircraft would be used by the Nigerian Navy, in addition to 18 other ships from other participating countries , with a view to providing opportunities for all participating countries to look for a lasting solution to maritime illegalities. .
According to him: “The exercise entails interoperability and creating the maritime domain awareness. Its also a multinational training organised by America and African Partnership Station.”
In addition to the NN and the Nigeria Airforce assets, other Nigerian maritime stakeholders such as the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency,NDLEA, the Nigeria Custom Service, The Nigeria Immigration Service, Department of State Security , NIMASSA, Nigeria Ports Authority , the Ministry of justice and the department of Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture, are expected to take part in the national phase of the exercise. By the national phase I mean the phase that is going to involve only the coast of Nigeria. NNS Okpabana is the only ship that will be participating in Ghana from Nigeria. The other ships will be stationed within Nigerian coast line and water space”.
*Evelyn Usman – Vanguard