By Evelyn Usman
The Nigerian Navy, will Friday, deploy some of its Warships and helicopters to the Gulf of Guinea, GoG for a multinational sea exercise code-named Obangame, with a view to countering sea-based illicit activities in the GoG corridor and to deepen cooperation among the region’s navies.
WARSHIPS—President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, in Lagos, inaugurated four warships acquired by the Navy.
The annual sea exercise which is hosted by the Nigerian Navy is expected to have 31 participating navies from countries like the United States, Morocco and Portugal among others.
Addressing journalists yesterday, on activities lined up for the exercise, at the Naval Dockyard, Victoria Island, Lagos, the Flag Officer Commanding FOC Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Obed Ngalabak, explained that the sea exercise which was first held in 2010, was aimed among other benefits, to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness , information sharing and collective capabilities of the GoG and West African nations to counter illegalities in the maritime domain.
The Gulf of Guinea which stretch of coastline spans between 15 countries, plays strategic importance to West Africa, as 70 per cent of its oil production is derived from it. Aside from being rich in oil, it also has a reasonable amount of untapped gas reserves.
But this crucial naval passage has witnessed alarming attacks by pirates and other acts of criminalities.
To this end, the FOC said, the overall objectives of Obagame express was to exercise each of the participating countries capabilities in Maritime Domain Awareness and Maritime Interdiction Operations.
He said, “Obangame Express is an annual multi-faceted sea exercise sponsored by the US Naval Force Africa, USVAF. Specifically, the exercise objectives include to demonstrate and evaluate maritime operation centres interoperability across the region and demonstrate and evaluate tactical maritime interdiction operations capability.
“Also to demonstrate and evaluate operational capability to respond to maritime events, prevent and counter maritime threats; demonstrate power projection and the ability to effectively operate as a multinational force under a regional control authority; demonstrate and evaluate maritime operations Centre operability with tactical units and evaluate and access Africa Partnership Station (APS) training effects.
“About 31 participating countries including 20 African nations and 11 allied countries are participating and it is being hosted by the Nigerian Navy in Western Naval Command Area of Responsibility, with the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas as the chief host.
“The exercise commenced since March 10, 2019, with the in-port training of Special Forces personnel from Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Cameroon and Benin Republic. The exercise life cycle includes sea exercise, Senior Leadership Symposium and debrief.
The Senior Leadership Symposium would elicit discussions geared toward finding solutions to our common maritime security challenges while the training and sea exercise would foster togetherness among regional and friendly navies in the task of enhancing order and governance in the GoG maritime domain”.
Eight Nigerian Navy ships including two Offshore Patrol vessels: NNS CENTENARY and NNS UNITY , two helosand- one ship each from US, Portugal and Morocco would be participating in Lagos area, according to him.
He added that Exercise Obangame express “ is also aimed at assessing and improving Gulf of Guinea law enforcement capacity, promote national and regional security, improve knowledge of African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership planning and operations and shape security force assistance efforts.
“The exercise would attract foreign guests /participants and domestic stakeholders in the maritime domain”, Ngalabak said.