By Desmond Ejibas
Gulf of Guinea, – The Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service (SBS) has been rated high, for successfully rescuing a French warship at the ongoing military exercise, “Obangame Express’’.
Rear Adm. James Oluwole, the Commander, Task Group 17.1, gave the ratings on-board Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Okpabana in the military exercise currently ongoing in the Gulf of Guinea on Monday.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that SBS, which is Nigeria’s naval elite fighting force likened to the United States Navy SEAL, rescued the French warship.
The warship had performed the role of a merchant ship hijacked by sea pirates.
Nigeria, alongside 29 other navies from Africa, Europe, South America and the U.S are participating in the special military exercise.
Series of tests and proficiency training are lined up as part of global strategy to fight piracy, illicit trafficking and other maritime threats on both territorial and international waters.
Nigerian navy commenced its part of the exercise on March 24 and would conclude on March 28 in Lagos.
Oluwole, who led Nigeria’s troops to the exercise, said that SBS participated in search and rescue, search and seizure and anti-drug operations among others within the nation’s territorial waters.
“Following the assumed hijack of French ship, Jacoubet, by sea pirates; SBS was deployed on-board two assault boats as part of training exercise designed to improve troops’ proficiency in rescue operations.
“Our special forces successfully boarded the ship and rescued the situation amidst very difficult manoeuvres which showed that our forces have tremendously improved since our first participation in the exercise in 2010.
“Onboard the French warship; we have officials and trainers from the United States of America who assess and rate performance of our Special Forces.
“The Nigerian Navy has improved with more sea assets which show that we are ready and prepared to execute our own part of maritime security deal in the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.
Oluwole said that French warship coming into the nation’s territorial waters and U.S sponsorship of the exercise showed the importance the fight against sea piracy and oil bunkering had become.
He said that sea piracy; illegal bunkering among other illicit activities on the maritime environment had become a global problem that needed international collaboration and cooperation to address.
According to him, Nigerian warships are currently stationed alongside offshore rigs and merchant ships 24 hours daily throughout the year.
“This is part of our commitment to ensure that those doing legitimate businesses on our territorial waters are not attacked by sea pirates and robbers.
“This partly explains the declining cases of activities of sea pirates and robbers on our waters while oil theft has reduced drastically leading to the nation’s improved oil and gas output.
“Obangame Express is under U.S One Thousand Ship Strategy, which sought to bring together all naval forces in the world as one fighting force to safeguard both territorial and international waters,” he said.