Nigeria’s Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Awwal Gambo, has said that the Nigerian Navy on Thursday deployed 13 warships, two helicopters and 1,500 troops in a special military exercise against pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.Vice Adm. Gambo, who announced the deployment at the flag-off of Exercise Grand African NEMO 2021 in Onne, Rivers State in south-eastern Nigeria, said that three foreign navies would also participate in the exercise.
The Naval Chief, who was represented by Rear Adm. Obi Egbuchulam, the Flag Officer Commanding Central Naval Command, said that the six-day exercise was also aimed at checking spates of attacks by oil thieves on critical oil and gas installations as well as other criminalities in Nigeria’s territorial waters.
“The Exercise Grand African NEMO 2021 is an initiative of the French Navy in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy and allied partners, to improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The exercise involves a multifaceted deployment at sea and ashore of naval assets drawn from the three operations commands of the Nigerian Navy.
“The exercise aims at ensuring the freedom of navigation in the nation’s maritime environment and the Gulf of Guinea by strengthening coordination in the fight against maritime insecurity,” the report on Friday by Ships and Ports Ltd, a specialized maritime publication quoted Gambo as saying.
According to him, the criminalities include piracy, sea robbery, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as well as illegal oil bunkering and illicit trafficking in persons, weapons and narcotics.
He said that the exercise would enhance the policing of the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone and the navy’s capabilities and capacity to secure the Nigerian waterways.
“To this end, the exercise will involve a total of 13 ships, about 1,500 personnel, two helicopters and three foreign naval ships, including the French Navy and the Royal Navy.
“The Nigerian Navy Maritime Awareness Domain facilities and elements of Special Boat Service (navy special forces) will also participate in the exercise.
“The exercise will also cover anti-piracy, protection of oil facilities as well as conducting search-and-rescue operations, among others,” he said.
According to Gambo, Nigerian economic zone has witnessed recent threats by criminal gangs, hence current re-strategising by the navy to deny criminals freedom of action.
He said that the morale of the troops had been boosted with the recent signing of the Anti-Piracy Law and that the special military exercise will be used to consolidate on the gains of `Exercise Beni Kekere’, conducted three months ago, and the ongoing `Operation Calm Waters’.