Following its commitment to eradicating acts of criminality in Nigeria’s maritime domain and by extension the Gulf of Guinea for legitimate socio-economic activities to thrive for the wellbeing of the people, the Nigerian Navy has ensured a sustained zero piracy attack within Nigerian waters in the last eleven months, from March 2022 till date.
Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo who made this known at the flag off ceremony of Exercise Obangame Express involving 28 participating nations and over 100 individually evaluated events.
According to the CNS, “The Nigerian Navy will be deploying 9 ships, 2 helicopters and maritime domain awareness assets as well as elements of the Special Boat Services for this year’s edition.
He e xpressed optimism that the Exercise will positively impact on Nigerian Navy’s readiness for combat operation through training, while exposing other maritime related agencies to benefits of inter-agency cooperation as well as international collaboration.
He continued, “It is worthy to state that sequel to delisting Nigeria from the list of piracy prone countries by the International Maritime Bureau in its report of 3 March 2022, Nigerian Navy has sustained zero piracy attack within Nigerian waters till date.
“Relatedly, the Nigerian Navy under my watch remains committed to eradicating act of criminality in the nation’s maritime domain and by extension the Gulf of Guinea for legitimate socio-economic activities to thrive for the wellbeing of our people.
Disclosing that the exercise, from its inception in 2010, has grown in both complexity and in accomplishment, Admiral Gambo said, “Starting with just 9 participating nations in a centralized exercise, Obangame Express has moved to decentralized events with about 28 participating nations and over 100 individually evaluated events.
“To consolidate on gains of last year’s Exercise, I am aware that the United States Coast Guard Ship Spencer and Spanish Navy Maritime Offshore Patrol Vessel MV Audaz would be participating in this year’s Exercise in Maritime Zone E.
“This development again underscores the importance of Exercise Obangame particularly in building requisite human capacity that would foster better understanding and burden sharing especially in a fast-changing operating environment.
“Furthermore, reports from various Regional Maritime Awareness Capability centres indicates improvements in legitimate shipping activities with negligible crime rates.
“These achievements are attributable to sustained presence of Nigerian Navy ships at sea, increased regional and international synergy as well as maritime domain awareness as facilitated by exercises such as Obangame.
“Gleaning from the foregoing, the Gulf of Guinea countries are already collaborating for the establishment of a Maritime Taskforce to further facilitate security and enhance international commerce.
“It is thus, envisaged that Nigeria and indeed the Nigerian Navy would provide a lead role in this regard.
“Accordingly, Exercise Obangame Express 2023 presents another opportunity for the Nigerian Navy to work together with regional and friendly foreign navies in the spirit of the Yaoundé Accord.
Furthermore, the CNS ssid, “According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the African Continental Free Trade Area has potentials to boost Intra-African trade by 33 per cent and cut the continent’s trade deficit by 51 per cent.
“Pertinently, a lot of logistics, planning and coordination are required to put together an Exercise of this magnitude. I must therefore appreciate the United States Government through the United States Africa Command and other international partners for facilitating and sustaining Exercise Obangame Express over the years as well as providing technical support for our regional awareness capability.
“This year’s exercise is particularly instructive considering effort of the African Union at establishing and operationalizing regional taskforces.
‘This will no doubt enhance the African Continental Free Trade Agreement as well as development of sustainable Blue Economy”.
Expressing gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for his untiring support to the Nigerian Navy, Gambo appreciated the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, the Fleet Commander and all officers and personnel of the Western Fleet as well as other fleets present, “for your zeal and determination to rid the nation’s maritime environment of all forms of criminality.”