The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Awwal Gambo, on Friday flagged-off the 13th Obangame Express with nine ships, two helicopters, maritime awareness domain assets and elements of the Special Boat Services (SBS).
Gambo flagged-off the maritime exercise aboard Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) KADA at the Naval Dockyard, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Obangame Express is an annual multinational maritime exercise for Naval commands in the Gulf of Guinea, to encourage maritime safety and security in furtherance of the Yaoundé code of conduct.
The CNS said that Obangame Express 2023 was particularly instructive, considering efforts of the African Union at establishing and operationalising regional taskforces.
“This will enhance the African Continental free trade agreement as well as development of sustainable blue economy, which is the future of the world.
“According to the United Nations conference on trade and development, the African Continental freetrade areas has potentials to boost Intra African trade by 33 percent and cut the continents trade deficit by 51 percent.
“Notably, the maritme industry and the shipping sector in particular constitute a critical driver in the implementation of the ideals of the African Continental freetrade agreement,” he said.
According to Gambo, the Gulf of Guinea countries are already collaborating for the establishment of a maritme taskforce to further facilitate security and enhance international commerce.
“Accordingly, Obangame Express presents another opportunity for the Nigerian Navy to work together for regional and friendly foreign navies in this period of Yaoundé accord,” he said.
The CNS said that the exercise from it’s inception in 2010 had grown in both competitive and in accomplishment starting with just nine participating nation’s and has moved to 28 participating nation’s.
“I am optimistic that the exercise will positively impact on Nigerian Navy’s readiness for combat operation through training, while exposing other maritme related agencies for benefits of inter-agency cooperation and international collaboration.
“Sequel to delisting Nigeria from the list of piracy prone countries by the International Maritime Bureau in 2022, Nigerian Navy has sustained zero piracy attack within Nigerian waters till date.
“Furthermore, reports from various regional maritime awareness capability centres indicate improvement in legitimate shipping activities with negligible crime rates,” he said.
Gambo said that these achievements are attributable to sustained presence of NNS at sea, increased regional and international synergy as well as maritime domain awareness, as facilitated by exercises such as Obangame.
“To consolidate on gains of this exercise, I am aware that the U.S. Coastguard Ship Spencer and Spanish Navy maritime patrol will be participating in this year’s exercise.
“This development again underscores the importance of Obangame, particularly in building requisite human capacity that will foster better understanding and information sharing especially in a fast changing environment.
“I appreciate the U.S. government through the U.S. African Command and other international partners for facilitating and sustaining exercise Obangame Express over the years,” he said.
The CNS said that the Nigerian Navy remained committed to eradicating acts of criminality in the nation’s maritime domain for legitimate socio-economic activity to thrive in the country.
Gambo expresses his gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari, for his untiring support to the Nigerian Navy. nan.