The Nigerian Navy has deployed 10 warships, two attack helicopters and 500 ballistic boats in a special amphibious exercise to curb crude oil theft and sea robbery in Nigeria’s waters.
Rear Adm. Umar Chugali, Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Central Naval Command (CNC), headquartered in Bayelsa flagged-off the exercise code-named “Exercise Sea Guardian” in a short ceremony in Onne, Rivers.
He said the joint military exercise conducted by both the Navy’s CNC and Eastern Naval Command (ENC), Calabar, was launched to reduce insecurity to its barest in the nation’s territorial waters.
“So, this joint exercise covering both the defence and the policy roles of the navy consists of 10 ships, two helicopters and over 500 boats for four-days at sea.
“This exercise will be used to exercise and demonstrate the capacity and capability of our ships at sea, to secure Nigeria’s maritime space and the Gulf of Guinea (GoG).
“Overtime, our maritime space has been inundated by some threats both onshore and offshore, hence this joint exercise that was last conducted in 2021,” he said.
Chugali said the objective of the exercise was to ensure that the maritime environment remained safe, secured, and conducive for socio-economic activities to thrive.
“The deployment of our capital ships and other assets will complement the gains recorded in curbing sea piracy, sea robbery, crude oil theft and other illegalities on our waters.
“Every operation presents new sets if challenges considering that security challenges in the maritime environment have become dynamic, emerging, and complex.
“So, with the emerging complexities in the waterways, the navy is evolving its tactics and strategies to ensure the insecurities are reduced to the barest minimum,” he added.
Chugali said, “although the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) had on March 2022 exited Nigeria from countries with sea piracy incidences, but that the navy cannot afford to drop its guards.”
The FOC said the country was able to record zero piracy and subsequent exit from the IMB piracy list due to changes in the navy’s tactics and support from the government.
According to him, maritime crime was transboundary, hence collaboration with GoG countries to ensure that fleeing maritime criminals from Nigeria’s waters were not allowed entry into those nations.
“To this end, this exercise is not going to be any other exercises conducted in the past as we have learnt from previous exercises.
“Every exercise or operation is an improvement over the previous one, and so, we are ready and willing to ensure that criminals no longer have space in our maritime space.
“We are sending a very strong message to the remnant of criminals lurking around our maritime environment to disappear as we push to secure our waters,” Chugali said.
On his part, the FOC ENC, Rear Adm. Olusola Oluwagbire, debunked claims that some of the navy’s personnel were involved in complexities surrounding crude oil theft in the country.
He said the allegations were unfounded considering that those who made the accusations have not come forward to present any evidence to buttress their claims.
“However, we are constantly policing ourselves, and as such, any erring officer caught engaging in such illicit activities is disciplined and dismissed from service accordingly.
“We are doing our best to present the best foot (personnel) in our deployments – both in terms of personnel and assets”, Oluwagbire said.