As exclusively reported in SHIPS & PORTS DAILY of March 24, 2014; the Nigerian Navy (NN) has confirmed that it is hosting a multinational sea exercise, tagged OBANGAME Express.
The Navy said the event is part of its efforts to ensure security in the nation’s maritime environment.
The exercise, which is being held simultaneously in Lagos, the Calabar-Cameroon axis and Gabon, began on April 10 with 23 countries participating. They include in United States of America (US), France, Italy, Spain and Germany.
Others participating countries are: Turkey, Brazil, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Angola, Ghana, Cameroun, Equatorial Guinea, Benin Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) and Tome while South Africa is participating as an observer.
In a pre-exercise media briefing aboard the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Thunder, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) the Western Naval Command (WNC), Rear Admiral Sanmi Alade said 24 ships and three aircraft would participate in the Lagos area.
He said: “The exercise, Obangame Express 2014, started on April 10, with the arrival and in-land training at the Joint Maritime Security Training Centre in Ojo, Lagos.
“Fourteen foreign ships are expected to participate in the Lagos area. Nigerian Navy ships – NNS Thunder, Kyanwa, Zaria, Andoni, Ikot-Abasi Benin, Ibua, Dorina, Agede and Torie – will also participate.
“Two NN helicopters and Nigerian Air Force (NAF) ATR 42 attract will provide air surveillance, medical evacuation and search and rescue.
“Exercise Obangame Express is a maritime interdiction based on simulated scenario of the most prevalent transnational crimes at sea. It is designed to improved cooperation among participating nations to increase maritime safety and security in Gulf of Guinea.
“It involves operations, such as visit, board, search and seizure techniques. It also focuses on improving interoperability of communications and sharing of Maritime Domain Awareness information with a view to harnessing their collective efforts to combat crimes in the region.”
Highlighting the importance of the joint military exercise, Alade said it was doubtless the huge resources and potential in the Gulf of Guinea were being undermined by multifaceted domestic, regional and international threats.
He added: “Rather than contribute to the stability and economic prosperity for countries in this region, pervasive insecurity in this resource-laden maritime environment has resulted in annual multi-billion dollar losses, significantly constrained investment and economic prospects, growing crimes and potentially adverse political consequences.
“Nigeria, like any other maritime nation, relies on the sea for harvesting of resources, commerce and international trade. For some years, effort has intensified to tackle the security challenges of piracy, poaching, smuggling, oil theft, trafficking and other transnational crimes.
“The challenges posed by sea-based crimes are such that no single nation is capable of effectively combating them all alone. The situation thus calls for synergy of efforts amongst maritime nations towards ensuring a safe and secured maritime environment.”