…Deploys three vessels, one aircraft, helicopter to Gulf of Guinea
After successfully rescuing hijacked oil tanker and its 16-man crew and arresting six pirates, killing one, the Nigerian Navy (NN),Wednesday vowed to continue to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure at sea.
The Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Atiku Abdulkadir, made this disclosure as the Nigerian contingent sailed to Duoala, Cameroon, through the Gulf of Guinea (GOG) waters for Operation Obangame Saharan Express 2016.
The exercise, which is an international annual exercise, was started in 2010, as a joint maritime interdiction and interoperability venture between the NN and navies of other countries including United States, Europe and other African countries.
Other countries participating in the exercise include the USA, Spain, Belgium, São Tomé and Principe, Netherlands, Espanyol, Gabon, Ghana, Togo, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Cote D’ivoire, Benin, Brazil and Cameroon.
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As part of this year’s exercise, Obangame, which means ‘Togetherness’ in Fang language, saw the deployment of three naval ships- Nigerian Navy Ships (NNS) OKPABANA, PROSPERITY and CENTENARY and they are expected to checkmate maritime illegalities on the GOG.
While NNS PROSPERITY was deployed from the Western Naval Command, NNS OKPABANA was deployed from Eastern Naval Command and NNS CENTENARY was deployed from Central Naval Command.
Also deployed was a Nigerian Navy helicopter, a Nigerian Airforce Maritime Patrol Aircraft (ATR4) aircraft belonging to the Nigerian Air Force and elements of the Special Boat Services (SBS), as well as officials from six government agencies.
While addressing newsmen on-board NNS OKPABANA, Rear Admiral Abdulkadir said, “This exercise is aimed at bringing our partners to train as well as practice maritime interdiction and interoperability.
“This year’s exercise was tagged Operation Obangame Saharan Express because the exercise area is from Morocco to the Mediterranean and then the Gulf of Guinea.
“The exercise which will end on March 25, is focused on crude oil theft and hijacking at sea.
It would be recalled that few weeks ago, the Nigerian Navy rescued a hijacked oil tanker, MV Maximus on the coast of Abidjan as it sailed towards Sao Tome and Principe.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibas and the navy will continue to put more effort towards curbing the different crimes at sea.
At the briefing were the Officer-in-Tactical Command, Commodore AMO Sunmola; the Commanding Officers NNS OKPABANA and THUNDER, Captains Olusegun Ferreira and Julius Nwagwu, respectively.
Also present were the outgone and incumbent Command Operations Officer, Eastern Naval Command, Commodores Ime Ekpa and Rasaq Babalola, respectively, as well as the Captain Suleiman Dahun, the information coordinator for the exercise.