Nigeria, 31 nations deploy warships, helicopters for joint military exercise

By Desmond Ejibas

The Nigerian Navy on Friday deployed 10 warships and two helicopters in a joint multinational maritime exercise comprising 31 other foreign navies.

The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Awwal Gambo, inaugurated the exercise tagged: “Obangame Express 2022” in Onne, Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers.

Gambo said the exercise was aimed at improving security in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) and boost synergy with navies within the regional block and allied countries.

According to him, the Nigerian Navy will conduct the drill on Nigeria’s territorial waterways and the gulf between March 11 and end on it March 18.

“Exercise Obangame Express is an annual multinational maritime exercise, which was born on the need for GoG navies and coastguards to cooperate for regional maritime security.

“The Nigerian Navy will deploy 10 ships, two helicopters; maritime domain awareness assets as well as elements of the Special Boat Services (Nigeria’s naval special forces) in this year’s exercise.

“The exercise will make a positive impact on our combat operation through training while exposing other maritime related agencies to the benefits of inter-agency cooperation and international collaboration,” he said.

He listed some of the countries that would participate in the exercise to include Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Cote D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo and Denmark.

Others are: Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, Italy, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe and Senegal.

Also participating are: Sierra Leone, Togo, the United States of America as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African State (ECCAS).

“This year’s exercise is particularly instructive considering the efforts of our governments to operate the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which has potential intra-African trade by 33 per cent.

“So, Obangeme presents an opportunity for the Nigerian Navy to work together with other regional and friendly navies to safeguard and secure the GoG, to boost maritime trade and commerce,” he added.

Gambo said that a report from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) released on March 3 indicated that Nigeria had exited from the list of piracy prone countries.

The navy chief said that another report released by IMB and Defence Web in 2021 announced a significant reduction in piracy and armed attacks in the GoG.

“These achievements are attributed to sustained presence of Nigerian Navy Ships at sea as well as increased regional synergy and maritime domain awareness as facilitated by exercises, such as Obangame.

“The Nigerian Navy under my watch remains committed to eradicating acts of criminality in the nation’s maritime domain and GoG for legitimate socio-economic activities to thrive,” he assured.

Also, Rear Adm. Idi Abbas, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Central Naval Command Headquartered, Yenagoa, Bayelsa, said the command would coordinate the exercise on behalf of Nigerian Navy.

The exercise, Abbas said, would also be used to checkmate activities of sea pirates, sea robbers, oil thieves, illegal bunkers and other forms of criminalities in the nation’s waters.

According to him, representatives from the Police, Department of State Security (DSS), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) would participate in the exercise.

Others are: the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Correctional Service (NCoS) and Ministry of Justice. (NAN)

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