For many African navies, one of the major implications of the emerging security equation is the increasing demand for maritime policing functions, according to Nigeria’s Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba.
In his welcome address at opening of a three-day Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) Africa Conference yesterday in Lagos, Ezeoba said that, given the current global focus on maritime security operations, Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) are the right platforms for effective, efficient and sustainable policing function which, according to him, most African navies lack.
The Navy chief said that the increasing necessity of policing operations has revealed the huge capability gaps hindering African navies and coast guards from effectively dominating their respective maritime space.
He listed these capability gaps as inadequate patrol assets, weak local vessel production capacity, low level of technological development, lack of desired capital base and high cost of funds, and inability to achieve cost-effective processes in acquisition and operation of patrol vessels.
Ezeoba, however, expressed hope that these inadequacies would be addressed through the First OPV Africa Conference, which, according to him, serves as a veritable platform to create awareness with regards to capacity building in the area of platforms acquisition.
He said: “We’ve realized that in this country we have some level of capability organic to us as a country within the area of local content initiative so this conference in its entirety which is been very well attended – the first of its kind in Africa provides the requisite capabilities to do what we call internal reassessment of these capabilities towards aggregating all of them into a common pool that will allow us to develop strategic partnership with industry equipment manufacturers as well as organic companies in the country that we can partner with.”
The maiden OPV Africa Conference being hosted by the Nigerian Navy has heads of security agencies and maritime industry stakeholders from across and outside Africa in attendance.
Also speaking at the event, Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Rear Admiral John Jonah (rtd), said that it is necessary for the Nigerian Government to complement the objectives of the OPV Conference by acquiring the required platforms for the Nigerian Navy to deliver maritime security.
The Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada, while addressing journalists at the event, said that there is a need for private-public partnership in the acquisition of platforms for the Nigerian Navy.
“For financing purposes, I believe that this is where the clamour for public-private partnership comes in. Some of these vessels are very expensive and we have need for many of them of different types but we will need to work out some serious financial arrangements. First of all we pray to get some more money through the budgeting system and then of course if we are to build we can also build along with private partners here. I believe that financing will take care of itself once we make up our minds on what we want to do next,” she said.