By Elizabeth ADENUGA
The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, on Friday called for transnational combat against maritime criminalities in the Gulf of Guinea.
Speaking at the closing of the sea exercise Obangame Express held at Naval Dockyard, Lagos, Dan-Ali said maritime illegalities had become transnational and evolved beyond the scope and capability of one nation to combat.
He was represented by the Director Navy, Ministry of Defence, Mr Patrick Ekawu.
“The scourge of various forms of illegalities such as sea robbery, piracy, crude oil theft, poaching human and illicit trafficking of weapons and drugs, among others, constitute serious challenges to the development of the countries in our region.
“One commonality amongst these maritime threats is that they have become transnational and have evolved beyond the scope and capability of one nation to combat.
“For most of the Gulf of Guinea Navies and Coast Guards, therefore, one of the major implications of the emerging security equation is the increasing demand for maritime policing functions,” he said.
According to him, maritime illegalities constitute serious challenges to the development of the countries in the Gulf of Guinea (GOG) region.
He said a huge capability gap had emerged in the past decades amongst GOG navies and coast guards in the efficient discharge of these roles.
“The situation increasingly gave rise to the need for greater international collaboration as well as inter-agency cooperation across various national capabilities and policy levels.
“It is against this background that Exercise OBANGAME EXPRESSS has remained relevant in developing the capabilities of the various navies and coast guards in the GOG to combat maritime security challenges within their maritime domain,” he said.
The minister commended the navies of the Kingdom of Morocco, Portugal, United States and other regional navies that had dispatched warships and personnel to participate in the sea exercise, which involved multiple simulated maritime scenarios and responses.
“I also commend our US partners for the initiative to bring heads of navies and coast guards from nations within the GOG and beyond together for the exercise,” he said.
The Commander, U.S Naval Forces Africa, Admiral James Foggo, while speaking with journalists, said that there had always been incredible progress each year of the exercise.
“This year was even more difficult. We had sniffer dogs for anti-drug trafficking simulations.
“We had Special Boats Services (SBS) from the Nigerian Navy. For the first time, we had the Maritime Domain Awareness Centre as part of the exercise.
“We are enthusiastic about success recorded in the past nine years as we look forward to the 10th year. I give this year’s exercise an A+.
“Firstly, we had 33 countries, 2,500 participants from navies and coastguards from GoG nations, Europe, Cape Verde and North America all coming to participate in maritime domain security.
“In the last couple of weeks, we have had 85 series of exercises, 95 ships some big as NNS THUNDER and others as small as patrol crafts,” he said.
He also said there were 12 aircrafts which participated and was providing Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR).
“We did so many exercises, some started off slow and easy till it got very hard like vertical assault at sea: that is training with risk. We will take the lessons learnt and implement in next one,” he said.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Ibok Ette Ibas, in his address, said the exercise showcased the use and importance of communication among the nations in the respective maritime zones, especially in areas of maritime interdiction operations.
“It also created a platform for the navy to practice the operationalization of the Harmonized Standard Operation Procedures for arrest, detention and prosecution of criminal vessel in our waters.
“The exercise of the task elements in anti piracy, hostage rescue operations and tactical fleet manoeuvres in particular are most rewarding.
“Furthermore, I recognise, among the several other highpoints, the valuable practice of the Special Forces in VBSS operations, and insertion/extraction of troops, evidence collection from crime scenes in conjunction with the MDAs in furtherance of law enforcement and the staging of mock MEDEVAC.
“In all of these, the navy is humbled by the enthusiasm of the participating navies from GoG States, albeit at other simultaneous theatres of the exercise and other allied navies of the US, Portugal and Morocco towards addressing prevalent threats in Nigeria maritime domain and in GoG as a whole,” he said.=====NAN