…As 2019 Excercise Obangame Express begins
By Evelyn Usman
In a renewed effort to address maritime threats in the Gulf of Guinea region, the United States government and the Nigerian Navy yesterday, commissioned the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) Training School in Apapa area of Lagos, as part of event to declare the annual multinational sea exercise codenamed Obangame Exercise, open.
So far, 338 naval personnel and maritime stakeholders within and outside Nigeria have undergone training on how to sustain and maintain the MDA, with a view to enabling navies of the GoG region have limitless information on activities in their maritime domains for unhindered surveillance.
Declaring 2019 Exercise Obaganme Express open at the Naval Dockyard, Victoria Island, Lagos, Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral ibok-Ete Ibas, noted that the vast resources and opportunities in the maritime environment of the GoG held the prospect to finding solution to the economic and developmental solution aspirations of African states.
The region according to him, had been unwholesomely challenged by multifaceted and evolving maritime threats that had led to deepening conditions inimical to peace and security.
But with the Maritime Awareness training school in place, Iba said , maritime surveillance would in the region be enhanced. Describing the training school as a milestone achievement, the CNS disclosed that it was “ facilitated by the US Government for training of personnel of the NN and other navies of the GOG in the operations of and technical aspects of MDA, maritime surveillance and the operationalisation of the Younde Accord”, even as he urged navies in the region to seize the opportunity for joint training offered by the school steadily improve capacity for collective response to security challenges in the GOG.
Earlier in his remarks, the United States Consul General John Bray noted that Obangame Exercise had grown in leaps and bounds, both in complexity and in accomplishment.
“We note the efforts by regional navies to work together in the spirit of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct which is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of Gulf of Guinea and West African nations to counter sea-based illicit activity,” Consul General Bray remarked.
“The Maritime Domain Awareness Training School in Apapa is one of the most evident examples of our enduring partnership. This school will be a regional center of excellence in the area of maritime domain awareness where neighboring countries will be trained,” Consul General Bray added.
In her remarks, Director, Directorate of Intelligence, U.S. Africa Command, Rear Admiral Heidi Berg, lauded the commitment of the 33 nations scheduled to participate in this year’s exercise.
According to her, illicit maritime activities such as illegal fishing, trafficking of weapons, narcotics and people, as well as the ongoing threat of piracy, undermine the rule of law, food security, and economic development in the region.
“This exercise is a clear demonstration of the United States’ dedication to combat these illicit activities and help our partners in the Gulf of Guinea to provide security for their resources, their economy, and their people. Obangame Express 2019 will make the region a safe place for maritime commerce and ultimately help increase the prosperity of the region,” Rear Admiral Berg said.
Also in his introductory remark during the commissioning of the Regional Maritime Awareness centre, Commodore M.A Abbah explained that RMAC system provided reliable and actionable intelligence for facilitating targeted patrols, “ thereby economizing efforts and saving costs. In view of the importance of the system to the operations of the NN, there was a need to build an appropriate mix of manpower for the sustained operations and maintenance of the system.
To achieve this requirement, over 300 NN personnel 28 maritime stakeholders within the country, six naval personnel from Ghana Navy and four other naval personnel from Togo and Republic of Benin, have been trained”.