The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Emmanuel Ogalla, has expressed satisfaction with the conduct of ‘Operation Safe Domain II’, a joint initiative involving Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Niger Republic.
Ogalla made the remark during the closing ceremony of ‘Operation Safe Domain II’ which started on Sept.11 and ended on Sept.15, at Cotonou, Port Naval Base, Republic of Benin.
The CNS was represented by the Deputy Director of Operations, Nigerian Navy, Commodore Shuaib Ahmed.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Niger are members of the Maritime Zone E countries established by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Integrated Maritime Strategy (EIMS) in 2013.
The purpose of the Joint Maritime Operations and Patrols (JMOP) is primarily to ensure the permanent, joint and coordinated control of the Maritime Zone E’ with a view to ensuring maritime safety and security.
Ogalla said that even though the operation had been declared closed, ships from the members of Zone E countries were still patrolling the sea day and night to discourage piracy and maritime crimes.
“The aim of the operation is to consolidate on ‘Operation Safe Domain I’, conducted some three years back.
“The aim is to bring the lessons learnt in the first operation to bear on the second operation, most especially in the challenges experienced in times of operating together.
“Improving on challenges such as the interoperability of equipment, language barrier experienced during the first operation and bringing countries of different territory to bear on this operation,” he said.
The CNS said that the operation bolstered the existing relationship between the navies of the participating countries, as well as consolidated the diplomatic ties and economic achievements of the countries.
“In addition, the operation will make the environment safe, secure and hitch-free for economic activities to thrive within the maritime zones of Zone E.
“This will boost economic activities, improve economy and provide employment among other benefits to member countries in the zone.
“I believe that there is an improvement in the interoperability of equipment and that the exercise has also bridged the gap between language barriers,” he said.
Ogalla said that the success of Operation Safe Domain I and II would open doors for other operations to continuously ensure a safe and secured maritime environment.
The Minister Delegate to the Benin President for National Defence, Mr Fortunet Nouatin, said that the operation had improved the security and safety in the maritime space of Zone E.
Nouatin said that the operation took into account a patrol zone which extended toward the outer limit of the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).
“The EEZ has become the favoured place for pirates, following the awakening of our countries.
“The keenness for improving performance which resulted in the integration of the air dimension in operation ‘SAFE DOMAIN II’ cannot leave us indifferent.
“This is why I will like to express all my gratitude to the brother and friendly country, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for all the efforts made, which has led to these results today,” he said.
The minister appreciated and thanked the commitment and role of the Nigerian Navy helicopter in the operation.
“I encourage you to keep up the momentum, in order to ensure a safe and secure space for all users of Zone E maritime space and the Gulf of Guinea,” Nouatin said.
The Director, Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre (MMCC), Zone E, Commodore Aniedi Ibok, said the zone’s maritime sector covers a total of about 106,000 sq nm from the coast of Togo, Benin and Nigeria.
Ibok said that ships from each country would continue to be at sea, communicate and interoperate when there are issues of hot pursuit or any crime that is cross border.
“The criminals will not have a free way on our waters because our waters are governed and that is the statement that we have come to make.
“The Nigerian Navy, Beninese Navy and Togolese Navy are all awake to their duties and will be there all round clock to make sure that pirates do not have freedom of action anymore,” he said.
The director said that those doing business in the waters legally would have the opportunity to carry out their businesses without harassment and he guaranteed safety of life at sea.
The Beninese CNS, Capt. Jean Le’on Olatoundji, observed that the operation did not report any anomaly in terms of security.
“In view of this, we can therefore congratulate the synergy of actions, characteristic of the fight for the security and safety of the maritime space of the Gulf of Guinea.
“I express my profound gratitude to all the eminent political and administrative authorities of our respective countries for making available the resources needed to carry out this operation.
“I also extend my heartfelt congratulations to the staff of MMCC and to all the personnel of the navies of Zone E member countries involved in the organisation, planning and direction of the operation,” he said.
Olatoundji also thanked the commanders and crews of Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) ABA, Patrol Vessel OTI and Patrol Vessel PENDJARI who spearheaded the operation.
The Commanding Officer of NNS ABA and the officer in charge for Operation Safe Domain II, Commander Samuel Fiyai, said that operating together had made them observe the strengths and weaknesses of their interoperability.
Fiyai said that the observation would enable them address the issues of their weakness as well as capitalise on their strengths.
“Most importantly the criminals and those with criminal tendency have seen the aggressive patrols by member states of maritime Zone E, operating together without gaps.
“This sends a message that there is no hiding place unlike before where you can operate in Nigeria and crossover to Benin for safety because of diplomatic immunity.
“Now, we are working together and we will give pirates and maritime criminals hell on all fronts,” the Commander said.