Twenty four countries, including France, United State and Germany will be converging on Nigeria with 22 war ships to carry out a military maneuver that would assist Nigeria and other African navies check piracy and oil theft.
The Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ilesanmi Alade told Daily Sun that foreign powers would be participating in a multinational military exercise code named Exercise Obangame Express, scheduled to hold simultaneously in three countries, Gabon, Cameroun-Calabar axis and Lagos.
He said that the exercise is a maritime interdiction exercise based on simulated scenarios of the most prevalent transnational crimes at sea, explaining that OBANGAME is designed to improve cooperation among participating nations in order to increase maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Admiral Alade while addressing the media lamented that insecurity within the Gulf of Guinea has led to the loss of multi billion dollars by countries within the coast of West Africa, particularly countries like Nigeria which relies on the sea for commerce and international trade.
The Flag Officer Commanding who addressed the Defence Correspondents alongside the FOC Naval Training Command Rear Admiral Goddy Anyankpele said the huge resources and potential in the Gulf of Guinea are being undermined by multifaceted domestic, regional and international threats and vulnerabilities.
He said rather than contributing to the stability and economic prosperity for countries in this region, “pervasive insecurity in this resource laden maritime environment has resulted in multi-billion dollars losses annually, significantly constrained investment and economic prospects, growing crime 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 been 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.”
Admiral Alade said that to further consolidate the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin’s effort towards achieving zero oil theft and other illegality, the Nigerian Navy, the United States Government , its European partners, Gulf of Guinea nations and other maritime nations of Africa decided to come together to conduct annual multinational maritime security exercise code named; OBANGAME EXPRESS.
He said: The word “OBANGAME” comes from Cameroonian language and means “togetherness”. The name was selected by African participants as proof of their commitment to promoting regional cooperation among navies of the countries in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The participating countries are United States of America, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Turkey, Brazil and Denmark, Belgium Netherland, Portugal; the host nation Nigeria, Angola, Ghana, Cameroun, Equatorial Guinea, Benin Republic, Cote Devoir, Gabon, Togo, Republic of Congo and Sao Tome and Principe while South Africa is being expected as observer. Fourteen foreign ships are also expected to participate in the Exercise in Lagos area while Nigerian Navy Ships THUNDER, KYANWA, ZARIA, ANDONI, IKOT-ABASI, BENIN, IBUSA, DORINA, AGEDE and TORIE will participate. Two Nigerian Navy Helicopters and Nigerian Air Force ATR 42 Aircraft will provide air cover in terms of Surveillance, Medical Evacuation and Search and Rescue.”