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Navy deploy ships, helicopters in multi-national sea exercise

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(Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

The Nigerian Navy, yesterday, deployed six war ships, two tugboats, two helicopters and a Nigerian Airforce ATR42 aircraft to kick-start an international sea exercise, codenamed “Exercise Obangame Express 2021.”

Obangame Express, a sea maneuvering exercise involving many littoral nations, is aimed at addressing maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.

The Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, declared the 11th edition of Exercise Obangame Express 2021 open.

He noted that the multinational maritime exercise was birthed for regional maritime safety and security.

The inauguration of this year’s edition, held on board the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS), Thunder, at the Naval Dockyard Ltd., on Victoria Island, Lagos.

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Gambo reiterated that the event was an annual multinational maritime exercise, borne out of the need for Gulf of Guinea Navies to work together for regional maritime safety and security.

“This is as a result of the huge resources and vast potential being continuously undermined by multifaceted domestic and cross border threats. This challenges the dwindling prosperity of member states,” he said.

The CNS said the exercise would present an ample opportunity for the Nigerian Navy to work together with other national and regional Navies in the spirit of the Yaounde Code of Conduct.

He said: “This code is designed to improve operational readiness, maritime domain awareness, information sharing practices and tactical interdiction expertise.

“This will enhance the collective capabilities of Gulf of Guinea and West African nations to counter sea-based illicit activities. It will also enhance the operational capability of the Nigeria Navy in its fight against various forms of maritime crime through information and intelligence sharing.”

Gambo said the sustenance of the exercise was critical to Nigeria’s national interest, given the huge contributions of the nation’s strategic maritime resources to national prosperity and development.

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He appreciated the government of the United States of America through the U.S. African command and other international partners for facilitating and sustaining Exercise Obangame Express over the years.

He also appreciated President Muhammadu Buhari for his untiring support to the development of the Nigerian navy.

The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Western Command, Rear Admiral Jason Gbassa, said the exercise was focusing on maritime crime hotspots to improve maritime security operations in the Gulf of Guinea.

The FOC urged the public, as partners in progress, to be free to divulge credible information to the units in their localities to get rid of all forms of criminality within Nigerian space.

The U.S. Consular General, Ms. Claire Pierangelo, said a secured maritime environment is integral to other dimensions of security.

She said maritime threats in the Gulf of Guinea had continued to evolve and were becoming increasingly difficult to address.

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