By Senator Iroegbu
Special forces with expertise in fighting piracy and other maritime crimes have arrived from United States of America, United Kingdom, The Netherlands and Spain to assist Nigeria in training its military and those of six other countries in the sub-region.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CAS), Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, disclosed this yesterday at the Defence Headquarters, saying the 14-day training programme called African Winds began last Friday for 221 troops from Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Cameroun.
Ibrahim,¬† who spoke through the Chief of Training and Operation of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Babalola Ogunjimi, added that the specialised training would be followed by another four-day exercises to effectively prepare them to tackle cases of oil theft and piracy.
He said: ‚ÄúThe African Winds programme has started with 14 days training that will be conducted by Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) drawn from US, UK, and The Netherlands Marines, followed by four days of exercises that will be conducted by units from the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force and Special Forces from the US, UK, The Netherlands Marines and Spanish special forces.
‚ÄúThe training in Lagos, will be conducted at the Joint Maritime Security Training Centre (JMSTC) Navy Town, Ojo from October 4 to 14, while the exercises would be conducted at Ibeshe Beach and the JMSTC/Naval Ordinance Depot (NOD) waterfront between October 15 to 18″.
According to him, the exercises that would be conducted in Lagos will include Amphibious¬† Raid, Maritime Counter Terrorism, Vessel Boarding Stop and Search in an opposed environment and Hydrographic Survey.
The CDS explained the need for the multi-nationals training programme, adding that about 221 Nigerian and foreign troops will participate in the training and exercises in Lagos area.
‚ÄúThe objective of AFRICAN WINDS is to enhance the capacity of African military forces to develop and improve their capacity to jointly plan and execute military operations in a maritime environment”, he said.
‚ÄúIt is expected that the AFRICAN WINDS training and exercises will further improve the capacity of the Nigerian Armed Forces to deal with the numerous security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea especially the stealing of crude oil and attacks on merchant ships,‚Äù he added.
Ibrahim noted that The Netherlands’ Maritime Forces would provide an amphibious logistic support ship, the HMNLS ROTHERDAM to support the training and exercises.
He said programme would also be held in Calabar and Akwa Ibom State from 21 to 24 October.
The ship which carries a total of 668 troops, four helicopters and six special boats called Landing Craft Utility (LCU) and Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP) is expected to be in Lagos from 15-18 October.
He said: “The ship was also said to be carrying many Fast Raid Interception Special Forces Craft used in inserting small number of specially trained troops from sea to land particularly in creeks. The LCU is capable of carrying up to 120 fully equipped soldiers while the LCVP carries 35 Special Forces troops over a distance of 200 nautical miles.
‚ÄúThe Nigerian troops are drawn from the Army‚Äôs 81 Division, the Navy‚Äôs Special Boat Service, the Western Naval Command and the Hydrographer of the Navy. The Nigerian Air Force Special Operations Group and the 81 Air Maritime Group as well as the Naval Air Station will be providing air support for the exercises”.