Lagos — The Nigerian Navy has deployed six ships, two tugboats, two helicopters and a Nigerian Airforce ATR42 aircraft toward addressing maritime challenges in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, announced the increase of security assets in the region during the inauguration of the 11th Exercise Obangame Express 2021.
Gambo said that the exercise was an annual multinational maritime exercise borne out of the need for the Gulf of Guinea Navies to work together for regional maritime safety and security.
The inaugurated Exercise Obangame Express 2021 was held onboard the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS), THUNDER, at the Naval Dockyard Ltd., on Victoria Island, Lagos.
Flagging off the exercise onboard NNS Thunder, Saturday, at the Naval Dockyard Limited Victoria Island, Lagos, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, explained that the exercise was aimed at contributing to the freedom of navigation in the Gulf of Guinea , by strengthening coordination in the fight against insecurity for socioeconomic activities among member states to thrive.
He informed that it would also enhance the collective capabilities of Gulf of Guinea and West African nations to counter sea based illicit activities. According to him: ”The exercise was introduced to foster togetherness of regional navies as a result of the huge resources and vast potential being continuously undermined by multifaceted domestic and cross border threats.
“This challenges the dwindling prosperity of member states,” he said.
The CNS said that the exercise would present an ample opportunity for the Nigerian Navy to work together with other national and regional navies in the spirit of the Yaounde Code of Conduct.
“This code is designed to improve operational readiness, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices and tactical interdiction expertise.
In her remark, the US Consul General, Claire Pierangelo, described maritime security, especially in the Gulf of Guinea, as a common interest to all nations, adding that no fewer than 16 countries shared the same waters.
She stated that the annual sea exercise attested to the strong partnership between the US and Nigeria, pointing out that “executing it despite the COVID-19 restrictions was a true testament to the richness and quality of both countries’ relationship.
Gambo said that the sustenance of this exercise was critical to Nigeria’s national interest, given the huge contributions of the nation’s strategic maritime resources to national prosperity and development.
“This is in line with the Nigerian Navy mandate and other treaties which Nigeria is a signatory too,” he said.
The CNS appreciated the Government of the United States through the U.S. African Command and other international partners for facilitating and sustaining Exercise Obangame Express over the years.
Gambo also thanked the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, for his untiring support to the development of the Nigerian Navy.
The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Western Command, Rear Admiral Jason Gbassa, said that the exercise was focusing on maritime crime hotspots to improve maritime security operations in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The exercise is an avenue for participating nations within the Gulf of Guinea and its international partners to collaborate toward addressing maritime security concerns toward the gulf.
“The exercise comes against the backdrop of piracy cases, illegal fishing, illegal exploration of mineral resources, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and other local and international threats within the gulf.
“Therefore, maintaining Nigeria’s strategic deterrence posture and influence in the maritime environment is critical to our economic prosperity and regional stability,” he said.
Gbassa said that the fleet includes: NNS THUNDER, PROSPERITY, KARADUWA, NGURU, EKULU, ESE, and Tugboat Dolphin Rima and Tugboat Mira would conduct several anti-piracy operation exercises.
“The fleet will conduct several exercises which will also include: protection of oil and gas facilities, fleet manoeuvres, communication, vessel board search and rescue among others.
“This exercise will be conducted alongside the French Navy Ship, Dixmude, in conjunction with other navies that will be participating.
“The exercise will give additional impetus to our overall operational combatant experiences to ensure that our nation’s territorial integrity is maintained in line with the Nigerian Navy constitutional mandate,” he said.
The FOC urged the public, as partners in progress, to be free to divulge credible information to the units in their localities to get rid of all forms of criminality within our space.
Also, Ms Claire Pierangelo, the U.S. Consular General, said that a secured maritime environment is integral to other dimensions of security.
Pierangelo said that maritime threats in the Gulf of Guinea had continued to evolve and were increasingly becoming difficult to address.
“Maritime security is, in fact, the backbone of healthy commerce; it promotes economic development and it supports the sustainable management of all resources on which this entire region depends.
“The exercise is designed to enhance the collective capabilities of all participating nation’s to counter piracy, illegal fishing and other sea-based illicit activities.
“The exercise expresses one of the many ways that the United States and like-minded partners ally with Nigeria and Atlantic Africa to address maritime security,” she said.