BY JUDE OKWE
For the third time in eight years, the Nigerian Navy will be participating in International Fleet Review exercise meant to re-awaken maritime security consciousness of navies worldwide as NNS Thunder Thursday left Calabar, the Cross River State capital, for Australia to take part in this year’s edition.
International Fleet Review is a training programme that only the biggest navies in the world do participate in. Nigeria and South Africa are the only countries representing Africa, a development the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Eastern Naval Command (ENC), Rear Admiral Joe Aikhomu, described as a mark of recognition of the Nigerian Navy.
In 2005, NNS Aradu participated in the United Kingdom International Fleet Review to mark the bicentenary of the Battle of Trafalgar. In 2007, NNS Aradu and NNS Wamba were in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil for the same exercise, all which Nigeria benefited immensely.
The training exercise, which begins on October 3 to 11, 2013, according to the FOC, is a friendly and diplomatic mission meant for the 50 participating countries to share experience and compare notes on sea policing. About 37 officers and 140 ratings are representing Nigeria.
He said the benefits of the programme were immeasurable as it will among other things expose the Nigerian Navy to the latest techniques in sea piracy, intelligence gathering and information sharing amongst the participating navies especially those within a given sub-region and the current technology in ship manufacturing.
Aikhomu added that the trip would last six months, stressing that Nigeria’s participation was at the instance of an invitation extended to her by the Australian Navy and that this was not the first time that the Nigerian Navy was embarking on such a trip haven done so previously in England, Japan, Alaska, United States but “this is the first time that Australia is inviting us.”
“Proficiency in the military is attained by training and retraining. Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind. We are going to gain a lot from this programme. Our contingent is going there to learn more, engage in cross-fertilisation of ideas and on the whole acquire the latest tactics in combating sea piracy and sea crime generally,” he said.
Aikhomu, who advised the crew led by Navy Captain Clement Egbinta Atebi, not to allow unnecessary people access to the ship, said the Australian government would be responsible for the training cost and feeding of all the participants adding that both the Royal Navy of that country and others will be reviewed by Queen Elizabeth of Britain.
The trip to Australia would take three weeks with the crew making stop overs at Luanda, Cape Town in South Africa, Port Luis, Free Mantle, Hobartasmania and Sydney. On return trip, NNS Thunder will visit Melbourne, Albany, Port Des Galet, Durban, Walvis Bay and Point Noire.
At the jetty of the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) Calabar were all the senior officers of ENC, some ratings, wives and other relations of the 180 crew members. The departure was emotional as some officers embraced their wives openly with some of the women not looking too comfortable with the departure.