By Henry Oladele
In terms of personnel, equipment and pedigree, the Nigerian Navy (NN), is arguably one of the most reliable branches of the nation’s Armed Forces, and one of the most efficient on the African continent.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]
The Navy which started as a quasi-military organisation dates back to 1914, after the amalgamation of [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]the Northern and Southern protectorate of Nigeria by the then British Colonial Government.
It was finally in 1956 that the Navy metamorphosed into what it is today and has ensured the protection[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″] of the nation’s territorial waters with the efficiency that is expected of a well trained outfit.
The role of the NN is so diverse in a country like Nigeria whom its coastline is about 420nm with
territorial waters of 12nm and a plethora of rivers and creeks.
This translates into approximately a sea area of 84, 000 sq nm for the nation to exploit
Since after it assumed its status as a fully fledged branch of the armed forces to police the nation’s maritime borders, the NN has acquitted itself in the different assignments it has been saddled with.
The most notable wartime exploits by the NN was the assault on Bonny Island in 1968, during the Nigerian civil war, to land crack personnel of the renowned 3RD Marine Commandos, under the command of retired Brig.-Gen Benjamin Adekunle now deceased.
The successful seaborne attack on Bonny Island by the NN to land Federal Troops, created a vital bridgehead for the Federal Troops, which contributed greatly to the eventual demise of the Republic of Biafra on January 1970.
Since then the NN has continued to evolve and has continued to train and retrain its personnel and also continued to upgrade its equipment with the recent acquisition of a new warship, NNS OKPANA from the U.S.
It must, however, be noted that, in spite of the economic, political, environmental, technological and security challenges, being faced by Nigeria in recent times, the NN has been protecting the nation’s territorial waters from a myriad of issues.
According to the present Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Usman Jibrin, who has zero tolerance for illegalities in the Nigerian waters, it has become obvious that the maritime environment will continue to play a central and critical role in Africa and Nigeria.
“This is because global sea-borne trade is on the rise as both littoral and landlocked state increasingly depends on the sea for easier and cheaper haulage and interconnectivity with other states.
“Apart from the increasing reliance on the sea for hydrocarbon production, the oceans and the entire maritime environment form an integral part of the earth’s ecosystem,’’ he said.
Jibrin also said that Nigeria depends significantly on the maritime environment for economic survival and by this, shipping activities, hydrocarbon exploitation and use of port facilities have generated over 80 per cent of the funds for our national budget.
“Unfortunately, these national maritime interests are threatened by various forms of insecurity.
“In particular, piracy, illegal bunkering and crude oil theft, smuggling, pollution, kidnapping, illegal fishing and proliferation of small arms have emerged as recurring threats to Nigeria’s maritime space.
“With a more globalised economy and Nigeria’s continued reliance on the maritime environment for commerce, ensuring a safe and secure maritime domain is critical to national development and economic well being.
“The NN is, however, a major driver to ensure Nigeria remains relevant in today’s globalised world where security and economic imperative drive national development,’’ he says.
According to the CNS, the role of the Navy as stipulated in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is quite explicit.
“The NN is charged with ensuring naval defence of Nigeria and to undertake hydrographic surveys and maritime search and rescue,’’ he said.
In terms of weaponry, the NN has continued to beef up its arsenal with the latest equipment in order to be abreast with its daily challenges.
The NN currently has in its inventory vessels that are capable of patrolling the nation’s territorial waters and the numerous creeks in the Niger Delta region.
The Navy currently has the MEKO 360 Frigate, High Endurance Cutter (OPV), MK9 Corvette, Fast Attack Craft (Missile), Mine Countermeasure Vessels (MCMVs).
Others are Rivers/Town Patrol Craft (PC), Defender Class Boats, Eagle Class Boats, Manta Boats, Inshore Patrol Boats (IPC), OCEA Boats, Shaldag Boats, Tug Boats and so on.
To ensure a birds-eye-view coverage of Nigeria’s territorial waters, the NN also has Augusta A109 E and Bell AB 206 helicopters in its inventory.
The awareness of the activities of the NN to safeguard the nation’s maritime boundaries has been documented in a television documentary, which was aired by some major media houses in the country on May 2013.
It has also created a website to named “No Crude Oil Theft’’.
Some of the information published on the website include the list of arrested vessels, NNPC crude oil tanker nominations schedules, vessels nominated by the PPMC to load and discharge petroleum products.
Information on piracy and sea robbery was also included which in essence was to interact with the public and international community to generate the desired awareness in order to enhance NN operations.
From October 2012 to December 2013, the NN in collaboration with Operation PULO SHIELD and other security agencies destroyed over 7, 378 illegal oil refineries, several barges, boats and auxiliary equipments.
Also from January to December that year, 1,973 illegal oil refineries, 119 barges, 1,717 wooden Cotonou Boats and 73, 927 auxiliary equipments was also destroyed.
Between this periods also, over 2, 278 suspects were arrested for crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism and handed over to the appropriate authorities for prosecution.
In 2014, the NN made tremendous progress in its policing duties and the implementation of its transformation plan.
During 2014, about 70 vessels, majority of which were oil tankers, were arrested for oil theft and other related offences and were handed over to the appropriate authorities for trial.
With this, the petroleum industry, particularly the Oil Production Trade Section, said the estimated crude oil theft had dropped within the past year from 200, 000 and 300, 000 barrels per day to the current figure of about 40, 000 barrels per day.
The NN also successfully rescued two hijacked vessels which are MV CROW and MT NORTE with 17,000 metric tons of gasoline.
MV DERIC BREEZE was also rescued from suspected sea robbers by NNS OBULA off Bonny Fairway Buoy.
The NN has sustained its prioritisation of training and human capital development as means to enhancing its operational efficiency.
In addition to local and overseas training courses, the CNS hosted a training conference and sea exercise in Calabar as part of the 2014 Navy Week celebration.
It must be noted that the NN has been able to reduce sea piracy and robbery in the Nigerian waters, which is attributed to intensified patrols by the NN to maintain a secured maritime environment.
In its bid to be on top of the development, the NN also embarked on the acquisition of six new Seaward Defence Boats (SDBs) and two Inshore Patrol Craft (IPC) and some vessels are also undergoing life extension refits.
Several arrest and rescued vessels had been made by the NN in a bid to ensure safe free legal water in the maritime environment.
For instance, the Western Naval Command (WNC) in 2014 also handed over 12 stowaways to the Controller, Nigerian Immigration Service, Lagos Sea Port Marine, Apapa, Mr Ode Apodeyi.
According to the former Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Rear Adm. Ilesanmi Alade, over 77 vessels have been arrested by the NN and handed over to prosecuting agencies from January to December 2014.
Also, sometime in 2014, the WNC also embarked on a sea inspection exercise which was aimed at assessing the readiness of the western fleets.
All these operation made by the NN is to ensure the Nigerian water is safe for legitimate businesses and also to rid the country’s maritime territory of criminals.
“The Nigerian maritime sector will continue to be of strategic importance for its resources and a medium of transportation.
“The environment, though rich in various mineral resources, especially hydrocarbons, is susceptible to various maritime threats.
“Some of these threats are sabotage of sensitive military, economic or other strategic maritime assets and hostile propaganda.
“These threats have impacted negatively on the nation’s earnings, hence, national development and the well being of Nigerians.
“The NN as the lead agency statutorily tasked to ensure effective maritime security has played vital roles in tackling these threats, thereby contributing to national development,’’ Jibrin said.
To buttress the recent upsurge in the activities of the NN, Captain Niyi Labinjo, the President of the Nigerian Indigenous Ship Owners of Nigeria (NISA), not only corroborated the CNS’s view but stressed that more needed to be done to curtail the activities of bunkers.
“There is still piracy on our waters and the Nigerian Navy is really trying its best to ensure the water safe from illegality.
“We still have a lot of foreign vessels that are still breaching our Cabotage Act which the Navy should also look into,’’ he said.
In the same vein, Mrs Magret Oyema-Orakwusi, a member of NISA says the Navy is doing what they should in securing the waters with the resources available to them.
She added that the government should give them more platform to perform more effectively than what they have done in the past.
“The Navy officers are well trained and they have and are still showing their capabilities protect our territorial waters.
“The government should be able to give them what they need to improve on their services,” she said.
She urged the government to equip the Navy for them to be able to perform their functions more effectively.
Oyema-Orakwusi also advised the Navy to make sure they continue to keep the waters safe from terrestial attacks.
She also advised that the government should fund and train them at all times with the aim to effectively perform their functions.
“There should be proper training and platform for them and there should be a relationship between them and other national Navy in the region so that there will be communication among them,” Oyema-Orakwusi said.
The onus is now on the NN to ensure that the task of securing the nation’s territorial waters from interlopers and economic saboteurs are reduced to the barest minimum.
This can only be possible if the necessary budgetary allocations are released to the NN as and when due. (NANFeatures)