Nigerian Navy: Show of Force

To demonstrate its capability to curb piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, NNS OKPABANA patrolled the waters for seven days, with naval personnel from 21 countries on-board. Chiemelie Ezeobi who was aboard the ship during the 2015 international maritime interdiction exercise writes…

Sometime ago, some personnel of the Nigerian Navy (NN) had sighted some suspected pirates within its waters. Without hesitating, they gave them a chase until they got to the Bight of Benin. But, the authorities in Benin Republic followed after the NN personnel and arrested navy personnel.

Although, the NN had the right to pursue the pirates, they had crossed Nigeria’s territorial waters into another country’s water, thus breaking one of the maritime conventions.

Times without number, one of the many reasons why maritime illegalities continue to thrive is because some of these criminal elements when chased, simply run into others waters and flee to safety. But that was then. The same is no longer obtainable today.

Now, even though the criminals sail into another water, the pursuing naval vessel simply does not turn back in defeat, rather they signal to the country where the vessel fled into and they will continue the hot pursuit.

Just by communicating with the said country and giving the position of the fleeing vessel and the efforts they have made so far, the navies of the world have achieved more successes in curbing maritime illegalities through collaborations.

In the past, navies of the world had relied on their strength alone to patrol their waterways, but with the successes gained from collaborations, they have began to cross boundaries and chart new frontiers for maritime security.

It was a lesson well learnt. Now, convinced on the gains of collaborating to jointly patrol the waterways, the Nigerian Navy led by the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, had a huge partner for the 2015 international maritime interdiction, which had 21 participating countries from Africa, United States and Europe.

Tagged Operation OBANGAME Express, a Cameroonian word for togetherness, the maritime security interdiction exercise, which is on its fourth run, is geared towards curbing maritime illegalities especially piracy and crude oil theft in the waterways especially in the Gulf of Guinea.

Thus, on a certain Friday, the 2015 Operation Obangame Express, kicked off. The exercise actually began, when the people earmarked for the trip boarded the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Okpabana at the naval dockyard in Victoria Island, Lagos.

According to the Command Operations Officer (COO), Commodore AMO Sunmola, the challenges experienced in effecting arrests and being able to see through the prosecution has been a burden on the navy.

He said:  “In some instances, the defaulters turn around to ask for reliefs and payment of compensation. This can best be described as double tragedy if we consider the man hour, manpower, wear and tear on the ship and its equipment.”

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