By Ferdinand Agu
When Admiral Francis Akpan asked me to review his book – AN ADMIRAL’s COMPASS – I did not feel suited for the task. But he persisted. Now, having read the book, I thank him for this honour. It is a peep into the fertile mind of a professional soldier; a leader, scholar, patriot, strategic and stimulating thinker. His thoughts surge like restless waves across a sea of topics, even as he sails a steady course to articulate the imperatives of Nigeria’s maritime strategy and maritime security; and their concomitants.
Though it is not wise to judge a book by its cover, one can safely judge this book by its title. An Admiral’s Compass: Reflections on Leadership, Military Strategy and Maritime Security is informative and authoritative. It distils Admiral Akpan’s rich experience: at sea and ashore, at home and abroad, in and outside naval service, which he shared with generations of naval and military officers in lectures delivered over a period of fifteen years. The lectures are not dated. Some readers may have difficulties in putting them in a broader context, especially as his opinions on some of the recurrent subjects appear to have mellowed over time. That is not unusual. Maritime strategic thoughts evolve and practice of maritime strategy change with time. The central message, that the navy and all maritime agencies involved with maritime security must learn to adapt to change, is constant.
Admiral Akpan offers strategies for the Nigerian Navy to be effective as the vital agency in the formulation of maritime strategy and the lead organization for maritime domain awareness and maritime security. The leadership of such a navy at the centre civil agencies and military authority interactions, must be nimble and change with the changing times while holding fast to their unchanging principles. An Admirals’ Compass makes the case for leaders with cross-generational vision, operational excellence and professionalism to enable naval officers and seamen – retired and serving – to continue to sail Onwards Together; and, in collaboration with all other maritime stakeholders, join hands to serve the country they all love. This book should be a regular companion for every naval officer, especially those in high-level command; and for anyone with interests in maritime strategy and maritime security.
About the Author
Before undertaking a detailed review of the book, let me give a brief sketch of Admiral Francis Akpan in order for the reader to better contextualize his works. I first met Admiral Akpan in South Africa in early 2001 – courtesy of the late Commodore Guy Amadi Ikwechegh, a man with whom Akpan shared a kindred spirit: as a fine officer, quintessential gentleman, scholar and statesman. Captain Akpan, as then was, was serving as Nigeria’s Defense Attaché in South Africa. That posting further enhanced his early exposure to the grand strategy and affairs of state.
Earlier in his career, Akpan had served as Aide de Camp to Late Vice-President Admiral Augustus Aikhomu and enjoyed a vantage view of what constitutes national interest, power and principles in the military and civil domains. Later, while serving in the ECOMOG Naval Task Force, he and his generation of naval officers experienced at first hand, the uncharted waters and political storms of naval involvement in peacemaking, peace enforcement and peacekeeping in Liberia and Sierra Leone. They saw our Navy at its full stretch: projection of force and national power at sea, enabling our diplomacy, and engaging in military policing duties. This book captures snippets of those tasks.
The delicate mix of military duties, civil governance and diplomatic engagements in the course of his career must account for his strong and patriotic grasp of naval, national and international affairs; and nurtured him into a mature, deliberate and strategic thinker. While in the Navy, it was generally accepted that the future of the Navy would revolve around officers like him. That hope was amply vindicated by his illustrious service. That career was most lamentably and maliciously cut short in his full stride as a Flag Officer Commanding. Yet, his continuing engagements in our military circles and affairs; and occasions such as this, validate his patriotic zeal and the enduring legacies of his meritorious service.
It was my privilege, when I served in the then National Maritime Authority (now NIMASA), to formalize the collaboration between NIMASA and the Navy. We began with the Hydrographer of the Navy. Years later, Admiral Akpan, as Flag Officer Commanding Western Command engineered the visionary expansion of that collaboration. His efforts culminated into a comprehensive Memorandum of Understanding between the Navy and NIMASA. That MoU provides a strong platform for intra-sectoral collaboration and interagency cooperation, along the lines that Akpan insists, should drive our nation’s maritime governance.
Chapter 1 : Introduction to Maritime Strategy and Security
Though the subtitle of the book is reflections on military strategy, this chapter and most of the book deals with maritime strategy, which is not synonymous with naval or military strategy. However, navies are a very integral part of the maritime world. As John B. Hattendorf noted: “On one hand, the navy is linked to the full range of activities in national defense; on the other, it is tied to the entire spectrum of civil activities relating to the sea. A maritime strategy is the comprehensive direction of all aspects of national power (including military and naval) to achieve specific policy goals in a specific situation by exercising some degree of control; at sea”.
In this Chapter, Admiral Akpan dissects the components and contents of maritime strategy and the maritime security; and their imperatives for the Nigeria Navy as the guardians of our waters, as the force charged with the seaward defense of the nation. The Navy is also required to help coordinate and enforce all maritime laws. As such, it vital to efforts to identify and respond to all scenarios of threats and challenges in our maritime domain. The threats may be political, social and/or economic. They may be from internal or external sources: interstate, multinational or even extracontinental; from traditional to non-traditional, conventional or asymmetric.
Nigeria is yet to fully blend its framework for coordination of our various maritime stakeholders, institutions and agencies. There are gaps in integrating maritime policy, foreign policy, defense policy, security policy and grand national strategy; and challenges in their smooth implementation. The current situation of maritime agencies working at cross purpose is suboptimal and could negate the required clarity in our picture of the maritime domain. ~//n
Effective Maritime safety and security is contingent on the quality of our Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). That is, the complete situational and threat awareness of ones’ domain. It requires Command, Control, Communication, Information and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance. The Nigerian Navy is severely underfunded. It cannot, acting singularly, assure our full MDA. Some maritime agencies possess significant financial resources but none is in as vantage a position as the Nigerian Navy to provide leadership on our MDA. Therefore, we need a well-designed, coordinated and collaborative effort as well as a national discussion on these matters in order to generate the widest consensus on policy and architecture; as well as popular ownership of the process, financing and effective implementation of our maritime domain awareness.
Chapter Two: Surveillance Systems and Maritime Security in Nigeria
Surveillance is a major building block for maritime governance. Effective surveillance requires integration and presentation of information and data from different sources; and their timely exchange and sharing with and between competent national authorities. Modern systems would typically combine the abilities of RADAR, Cameras, Satellite, Vessels, Aircrafts – manned and unmanned. Commonly used systems in merchant shipping safety and security include AIS – Automatic Identification System and LRTS – Long Range Tracking System.
In the last 15 years, Nigeria has invested in various surveillance systems, including the Coastal Maritime Surveillance System of the now defunct Presidential Committee on Maritime Security and Safety; Regional Maritime Awareness Centres, established by the US Government and domiciled with the Nigeria Navy. There is also the Deep Blue Project of NIMASA and the Falcon Eye Project from Nigeria Navy.
The Nigeria Navy Falcon Eye Project receives special mention for its vast scope and structure. It is an integrated surveillance, monitoring and control system that covers beyond our EEZ and extends domain awareness to include the Gulf of Guinea. It gives our Navy the capacity to deploy aerial and maritime assets, to complete the operational circle of detection to intervention in a short time. Other surveillance systems, including the ATR 42 Maritime Patrol Aircrafts of the Nigeria Airforce and the Total Radar Coverage of Nigeria project domiciled in Nigeria Airspace Management Agency, should give an enhanced picture of our maritime domain. The author opines that it is essential that the Nigeria Navy leads other maritime stakeholders, with a robust system like the Flacon Eye Project, in view of the multifaceted security challenges in our maritime domain.
Chapter Three: Peace Keeping and the Navy – An African Perspective
This Chapter explores the concepts of peacekeeping, peace enforcement, peace-making, peace building and conflict prevention. It surveys the antecedents of peacekeeping in Africa. It highlights continental and sub regional efforts for peace and security in Africa and concludes that there are weaknesses in mechanism for conflict prevention, management and resolution.
The author reviews the military, policing and diplomatic roles of navies; and is persuaded that African Navies can facilitate peacekeeping operations – especially where they have operational readiness, flexibility, capacity for self-sustenance at sea and mobility. Arguably, the Nigeria Navy largely met these criteria in peacekeeping operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone, where it was part of the ECOMOG Naval Task Force. (ENTF)
Despite the relative success of the ENTF, there are obvious constraints to Naval involvement in peacekeeping in Africa, especially the divides along the lines of Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone States. There is also the need for more joint exercises between African Navies so that procedural and tactical differences can be eliminated. Equally important, expanded interaction will lead to the evolution of systems standardization, exchange of intelligence as it pertains to the continent’s maritime environment, safety and security.
Peacekeeping operations are trending more towards multinational than unilateral undertakings. For African Navies this will entail deliberate efforts for rationalization, standardization and interoperability of forces and equipment. This in turn, could someday lead to an African Maritime Force that should be capable of advancing continental interests.
Chapter Four: Maritime Strategy and Security – National Discuss
This chapter re-emphasizes the key concepts of maritime strategy ad security that had earlier been discussed in Chapter 1. There is the additional emphasis on the need for a national discuss of the issues involved because such discussion brings clarity to objectives and coherence to strategy. National dialogue connects political goals with the military; and vice versa. Most of all, it fosters commitment and consensus on devoting adequate resources for the pursuit of the agreed course. Furthermore, there will be a greater understanding of maritime strategy maritime security and related policies
Chapter Five: Piracy and Terrorism in the Gulf of Guinea
Piracy is “the act of boarding any vessel with the intent to commit theft or and other crimes, with the intent or capability to use force in furtherance of that act”; while ”terrorism is the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes”. The Gulf of Guinea is a zone of immense economic and strategic importance to Nigeria. It is currently the most pirate infested area in international shipping. The consequences for Nigeria are grave. Piracy and terrorism thrive when conditions ashore permit; especially under a weak state, corrupt governance structures and institutions; and a welcoming environment. These are common conditions in most countries in the Gulf of Guinea. The Navy and other agencies must develop options and strategies to combat the twin evils of piracy and terrorism.
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Chapter Six: Maritime Environment
This chapter explains the maritime environment; the arena within which the Navy seeks operational excellence. The world’s maritime environment is largely shaped by meteorological and weather factors, astronomical and oceanographic factors. They have impact on Navies; on their vessel design, performance and maintenance; and on seamanship amongst others. Economic activities within the maritime environment include exploitation of the vast chemical, mineral and energy resources, oil and gas industry activities; and harnessing of the abundant food resources of the sea. Equally significant is the use of the sea to link the world through transport and communications.
The oceans and seas are the source of prosperity. They are also the stage for economic and military threats. That is why the naval approach to maritime defense and strategy involves defensive and offensives actions that could determine the survival of the nation. The Navy, in cooperation with other agencies and institutions must preserve that wealth and the maritime environment in order to achieve the nation’s maritime objectives and make the ocean safe for sustainable development; for our time and generations unborn.
Chapter Seven: Maritime Domain Awareness as a Vehicle for Effective Naval Operations
The subject of maritime environment, maritime domain awareness, military strategy and maritime security are revisited. The recurrent and emergent maritime domain threats from within the nation state, terrorism, transnational criminals and pirates; as well as environmental pollution and illegal migration are discussed again, especially as there are yawning gaps in fusion of information and intelligence between government agencies.
Implementation of International Ship and Port Facilities Security Code gave great impetus to MDA. Its provisions for Long Range Identification and Tracking and the fitting of transponders for Automatics Identification System on Vessels; as well as the Ship Security Alert Systems were major innovations for MDA. For the Navy, in this new era, the path to operational excellence will include leadership through partnership with the whole gamut of stakeholders; Ministry of Defence, Defence Headquarters, other services, Nigerian Ports Authority, Ministry of Transport, Nigerian Maritime and Safety Administration, Nigeria Customs and Excise, Nigeria Immigration Services etc.
Chapter Eight: Funding Options for Effective Nigeria Navy Transformation
The Navy’s budgetary appropriations are inadequate. In some years past, the actual releases were extremely low. New funding options should be pursued, but without exposing the Navy to indignity or indiscipline. Funding for Nigeria Navy Transformation Project (NNTP) falls far below the minimal requirements to impact on the operational efficiency for its matrix of short, medium and long-term projections. Every aspect of the pillars of Navy Transformation needs more funding. New options and strategy recommended include increasing linkages between Nigeria Navy and other maritime stakeholders, along the lines of the South African Navy and the Department of Fisheries of South Africa. In our case, collaboration with Nigerian National Petroleum Company and International Oil Companies could be a means, if properly structured, to finance capital acquisitions of platforms and funding of naval operations. Also, serving and retired officers could devote more efforts to educating policy makers and parliamentarians on the needs of the Navy. This is with the view to overcome the “sea blindness” and ignorance of the operating environments and affairs of the Navy. They will also help to ensure better follow up on resolutions taken in the interest of the Navy.
CHAPTER 9: Enhancing Professional Training in the Nigerian Navy to Confront Current Security Challenges
This last section of the book, the author called: The Admiral’s Navy. He posits training at the heart a navy. The author argues that training guarantees improving one’s capability, capacity and performance. The Nigeria Navy personnel must be trained and fit for purpose: with professionalism, expertise, sense of responsibility and corporateness to confront our current national security challenges. They should be ready for the conventional and unconventional scenarios. Our navy must accomplish their war and peacetime functions with equal competence and distinction.
Professional training in the Nigeria Navy is embedded in the Nigeria Navy Act, Armed Forces Act and various training policies. Navy Training Command (NAVTRAC) and its later amendments as per NNO01/06 of 2016; liaison with NDA, Naval War College, National Defense College are all designed to meet the needs of the service and its operating environment. As a result the Navy continues to do well in Sea exercises with foreign navies and routinely outclass those of our neighbouring states.
However, in order to be more relevant to our nation’s needs, the Navy must prepare for a paradigm shift – towards weapon and boat handling in our shallow inland and coastal waters. It must also deal with issues of inadequate structural and infrastructural facilities; insufficient skilled and competent instructors and the attitude of personnel.
Chapter 10: Human Resource Management and Military Professionalism: Challenges and New Approaches
Human resource management is a strategic enabler of professionalism. The Navy imparts professionalism, discipline, customs, ethics and traditions that are common to all members of the military, through training. These virtues underline and give effect to the power of command and control. They are foundational to leadership in any military service. In the final analysis, for an army, there is no substitute for leadership at all levels. For that reason, leadership is a major subtheme of this book. The military leader must exemplify courage, intelligence, experience, discipline and decisiveness. The Navy provides solid preparations and training in the art and science of leadership and expects that officers must reflect the core values of the Navy in their commands, ship and establishment.
The author recommends for the Navy, a fundamental change in attitudinal approach to training. It must be technology conscious and also strike the right balance between theory and practice. Foreign training and better equipment are essential. The continuation and facilitation of the various international fleet exercises in the Gulf of Guinea should be encouraged. The exercises not only help promote maritime domain awareness and security in the area; but also provide opportunity for the Nigeria Navy to measure itself against some global benchmarks.
Chapter Eleven: Developing the Next Generation of Naval Leaders
The author quotes US Admiral Michael Mullen: “Everything starts and ends with leadership….nothing is of much consequence if we do not have sound leadership in place to enact them”. The task for the Navy, is to reconcile the symbiotic relationship between training, education and experience and develop leaders that can meet the challenges of the 21st century. This is imperative because operational command of the future will gravitate towards joint leadership. National and international security will be more reliant on interoperability and cooperation among services; and armed forces. More engagements will involve Military Assistance to Civil Authority and Military Assistance to Civil Power. Therefore, officer development must recognize that operational command at Flag Rank demands much more than sea command. Exemplary leadership is key to any efficient and professional service. Effective command demands – All round leaders.
An Admiral’s Compass – leads one through Nigeria’s maritime strategic thinking and maritime security issues. The growing insecurity in our maritime environment underscores the urgency for effective domain awareness, greater capacity to confront and respond rapidly to threats and challenges. This book is the author’s contribution to his call for a national discussion on these issues; to create consensus around policy priorities, implementing structures, funding and investment in organizations, training and equipment for robust protection of the Nigeria’s maritime space. Beyond that, An Admiral’s Compass is informative, authoritative and points the true north for readers and leaders that value and demand vision, professionalism and mature judgment in those charged with duties and responsibilities as guardians of our maritime space.
Ferdinand Agu, MFR is a former Director-General, National Maritime Authority (NMA), now Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASSA)
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