Nigeria: Keeping the Seas Safe

Determined to rid the waterways of sea pirates, the Nigerian Navy continues to hone the skills of its personnel, writes Chiemelie Ezeobi

The Nigerian maritime frontiers is beset with a number of challenges. The vices on the high seas, which have necessitated the war against maritime illegalities are legion. Some of these include piracy, sea robbery, smuggling, poaching, illegal bunkering, illegal unregulated and unreported fishing, crude oil theft, drug and human trafficking and maritime terrorism. The daily perpetration of these crimes merely suggest that the war against them is far from being over.

Besides other prevailing illegalities, the authorities also battle other daunting challenges of  protecting offshore oil installations and facilities as well as combating seaborne insurgency and environmental degradation. The Nigerian Navy (NN) as part of its unrelenting quest to curb these vices have in times past been engaged in different exercises including African Winds, Operation Obangame, Operation Farautau and Operation Prosperity, amongst others.

However, despite these exercises and operations, some of these illegalities continue to thrive, thereby prompting the NN to look beyond and within in finding lasting solutions.
Therefore, as part of the Strategic Guidance 01 of the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba charted the course to build optimal capacity amongst personnel as one of the ways to curb maritime illegalities.

According to Ezeoba’s calculations, the SG 01 which was broken into three key parts; strategic direction, capacity-building-project deliverables and critical operational objectives, would go a long way in finding a lasting solution to the challenges that has bedeviled the maritime sector for years.

The document reads in part, “Piracy and other forms of illicit activities that have led to loss in revenue in billions of dollars. Therefore, given the nation’s dependence on hydrocarbon exploitation and shipping activities for economic survival, the attainment of the objectives of the National Vision 20:2020 and the Transformation Agenda are significantly hinged on progressive operational efficiency of the NN.
“The emplacement of a robust and combat ready fleet is considered a fundamental pivot for the NN to achieve its mission, which is to discharge its constitutional roles and assigned tasks in a professional and efficient manner, consistent with global best practices for the defence and protection of Nigeria’s territorial integrity.”

Therefore as part of his operational objectives, lies in robust policing functions (estate management of the sea) anchored on combating all acts of illegalities in our maritime domain such as crude oil theft, illegal bunkering, IUU Fishing, piracy and sea robbery amongst others.

In building capacity and ensuring a high morale amongst personnel, he added, “The welfare of our officers, ratings and civilian staff and their families remains a paramount consideration given the importance of a well-motivated force.  The NN shall continue to revalidate and improve the divisional system processes to ensure personnel are well catered for and their needs addressed in a timely manner.”
Therefore, besides its continuous quest to fight sea robbery and piracy in the nation’s maritime domain, the Nigerian Navy (NN), has listed the protection of offshore oil platforms as one of its daunting challenges, hence its efforts to build capabilities amongst personnel to tackle the irregularities.
This effort, according to the Navy is due to the constant sabotage being perpetuated by hoodlums and bunkerers on offshore oil platforms and facilities, adding that the Navy is breeding a formidable force that would contend fully with such challenges.

The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Naval Training Command (NAVTRAC), Rear Admiral Goddy Anyankpele, said as much at opening the¬† ceremony of the command’s annual training conference in Apapa, Lagos. The thrust of the conference which was tagged, ‘Repositioning the NN professional training for enhanced operational capability’, was aimed at producing modalities for holistic approach to training personnel to checkmate emerging challenges in the Nigeria’s maritime domain.

In his speech, Ezeoba said the multi-faceted security challenges bedeviling the nation and the crucial role the NN is expected to play requires a pragmatic and constant review of the navy’s training policy.
Ezeoba who was represented by the FOC, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas said there was need to acquire requisite operational capability to achieve optimal efficiency in dealing with the contemporary and emerging operational security threats particularly within the nation’s maritime domain.

He said, “The objective of the conference among other things is to provide a forum for the collective reflection on NN training matters with a view to improving the NN training direction from 2014. Recent events in the domestic and international maritime environments have necessitated the need for navies worldwide to constantly review their concept of operations as well as the approaches to training.”

Additionally, he said the multi-faceted security challenges bedeviling the nation and the crucial role which the NN is expected to play as its contribution to the defence and security of the country required a pragmatic and constant review of the navy’s training policy. The review he noted, is aimed at preparing training directives for the personnel to effectively carry out their assigned tasks towards meeting these challenges, adding that the NN is inter-alia saddled with so many responsibilities as derived from the National Defence Policy.

“These responsibilities include protection of Nigeria’s sovereignty, citizens’ values, culture, interests, resources and territory against external threat; aid to civil authority in disaster management and humanitarian relief operations both at home and abroad. Others include assistance in the coordination of national search and rescue operation; participation in African Union and United Nations Peace¬† Support operations, combating maritime insurgency, sabotage, human and drug trafficking and of recent, combating the challenges in the Northern part of Nigeria,” he added.
Ezeoba added, “These issues and how to train towards achieving them must remain a great source of concern in our minds. Accordingly, it is pertinent to state that despite the past achievements, the current dispensation requires that we develop requisite operational capability to achieve optimal efficiency in dealing with the contemporary and the emerging operational security threats particularly within our maritime domain.
“This is in recognition that the wealth, peace and indeed the survival of our dear nation depends on the sea, the protection of which rests upon the NN. The human resource remain the most vital asset and core capability of the navy, thus, specialist training and re-training of personnel would therefore continue to receive priority attention.”

Still on capacity building, he said officers and ratings are being slated to attend various courses, seminars, workshops and symposia both locally and abroad, adding that the theme of the conference is therefore apt, seeing that there is no better time to reposition the navy than now. He concluded by saying that the conference is expected to serve as a platform for brainstorming on how to reposition NN training to meet challenges to national security.
In his speech also, the FOC said the sea is one of the veritable sources of national economic development in terms of transit and resource exploitation and has drawn all kinds of attention and challenges towards the maritime environment.

As such, he lamented that the littoral domain is contending with increased maritime security challenges including smuggling, poaching, illegal bunkering, illegal unregulated and unreported fishing, crude oil theft, piracy, drug and human trafficking and maritime terrorism. He added, “Other daunting challenges we face are the¬† protection of offshore oil installations and facilities as well as combating seaborne insurgency, environmental degradation and maritime disasters.
“These challenges require a well-trained and efficient naval force to be addressed. Therefore, with effective training, we can develop a formidable force that would enhance the capability of the NN towards contending with these contemporary challenges.”
Thus, he add that the focus now is for the NN to expand her intellectual scope through task oriented training in aviation with standard and well equipped institutions to meet the required modern training standards through the SG 01.

He stated, “We recognise the central and critical roles of our personnel and regard them as the most valuable assists of the NN. In consonance with this, we seek to create a crop of well trained, highly motivated and well led personnel. Hence, the objectives of this conference is to generate inputs aimed at taking NN to the next level in line with international best practices, focus on NN training toward tackling contemporary maritime security challenges. To provide a forum for collective reflection on NN training matters with a view to improving the training direction from 2014, as well as restructuring training to involve rational problem-solving approach.”
In addition, the Commandant, NN College, Onne, Port Harcourt, Commodore A. O Ayuba, who was the guest lecturer said as robust as the NN mission may appear, it might be difficult to attain without a credible, modern, responsive and qualitative training policy and strategy that directly aligns training with the Navy’s mission.

Thus, he said such policies and strategies needs to carefully examine how NN personnel could be made combat ready to man the various platforms and equipment available in the NN Orbit. He opined that for the Navy to attain its professional training objectives, there is the need for NAVTRAC to conduct a Training Needs Analysis and Training Needs Assessment, review NN Training Policy and produce new training strategies and harmonise shore training (use of models, simulations) with practical sea training.
Others include, Considering harmonising the functions of naval training and naval doctrine (i.e. merge NAVTRAC and NDAC to form NAVTRADOC) for better enhancement of NN maritime operations, developing an independent and partially commercialised publication centre to print and review publication periodically, as well as growing a plethora of experts who could be further classified into tactical, operational and strategic levels.


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