The Nigerian Navy on Thursday deployed 13 warships, two helicopters and 1,500 troops in a special military exercise against pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Awwal Gambo, announced the deployment at the flag-off of Exercise Grand African NEMO 2021 in Onne, Rivers.
Represented by Obi Egbuchulam, the Flag Officer Commanding Central Naval Command, Mr Gambo said that three foreign navies would also participate in the exercise.
He said the six-day exercise also sought to contain spates of attacks by oil thieves on critical oil and gas installations as well as other criminalities in Nigeria’s territorial waters.
The CNS said: “Exercise Grand African NEMO 2021 is an initiative of the French Navy in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy and allied partners, to improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The exercise involves a multifaceted deployment at sea and ashore of naval assets drawn from the three operations commands of the Nigerian Navy.
“The exercise aims at ensuring the freedom of navigation in the nation’s maritime environment and the Gulf of Guinea by strengthening coordination in the fight against maritime insecurity.”
According to Mr Gambo, the criminalities include piracy, sea robbery, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as well as illegal oil bunkering and illicit trafficking in persons, weapons and narcotics.
He said the exercise would enhance the policing of the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone and the navy’s capabilities and capacity to secure the nation’s waterways.
“To this end, the exercise will involve a total of 13 ships, about 1,500 personnel, two helicopters and three foreign naval ships, including the French Navy and the Royal Navy.
“The Nigerian Navy Maritime Awareness Domain facilities and elements of Special Boat Service (navy special forces) will also participate in the exercise.
“The exercise will also cover anti-piracy, protection of oil facilities as well as conducting search-and-rescue operations, among others,” he said.
The navy chief said the nation’s economic zone had witnessed recent threats by criminal gangs, hence current re-strategising by the navy to deny criminals freedom of action.
He said that the morale of troops had been boosted with the recent signing of the Anti-Piracy Law.
According to him, the special military exercise will be used to consolidate on the gains of `Exercise Beni Kekere’, conducted three months ago, and the ongoing `Operation Calm Waters II’.