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Obangame express:  US, 33 countries declare war on maritime illegalities 

…Deploy 2500 navies’ personnel, 95 ships, 12 aircrafts to sea exercise in the GoG

By Evelyn Usman

Not less than 2,500 naval personnel drawn from 33 countries navies, including the United States Coast Guards, participated in the just concluded multinational  maritime exercise codenamed Exercise Obangame Express , with the aim of addressing piracy and other  various forms of illegalities in the Gulf of Guinea, GoG  region.

In addition, 95 ships out of which eight belong to the Nigerian Navy and 12 aircrafts, participated in series of exercise and surveillance of the GoG region, in an apparent signal to sea robbers to stay off the corridor.

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The Commander, US Naval Forces Africa , Admiral James Foggo, who made the disclosure while briefing journalists at the closing ceremony of  Obangame Express 2019,  hosted by the Nigerian Navy, revealed that  drug sniffing dogs also  participated in the sea exercise for the first time in nine years , with a view to arresting suspects who used the GoG  corridor  for illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons.

Describing this year’s exercise as a milestone success when compared to previous ones, Foggo, scored the Nigerian Navy under the watch of the Chief of  Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas,  high in its ability to host  a successful exercise.

Assessing Obangame Express  2019, Admiral Foggo said, “ I observed an incredible  progress over the nine years period of time.  Before now, w e did not have African maritime operation and there was no  cooperation along the lines of borders between nations o f the Gulf of Guinea . We did not have  lot of equipment like ships, raider, etc.

“But since this exercise began,  we’ve had  the Yaounde  code conduct which deals with  maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. Countries collaborate much better now than they did back in 2010 because  of the existing  relationship through   Obanganme   express, every year. The difference is like  night and day, we’ve made incredible progress.

“ I score  this year’s  exercise hosted by Nigerian Navy  an ‘A’ plus. First of all ,we have 33 countries coming together , with  2500 personnel from navies and Coast Guards from  the Gulf of Guineas nations,  Europe,  Cabo Verde,  and North America , all came here to participate in maritime domain security .

“ We did over 85 exercises  in the last couple of weeks. We had   95 ships, some big like yours(Nigeria’s) NNS Thunder   and some, much smaller like patrol crafts  . We had 12 aircrafts that participated in providing intelligence surveillance ”.

In his remark, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali, noted that before now,  security threats in the maritime domain posed an increasing policing demand for navies in the Gulf of Guinea region. He added that  the capability gap among navies of the Gulf of Guinea region gave rise to  greater international collaboration and inter-agency cooperation across various national capabilities.

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“ It is against this backdrop that Exercise Obangame Express has remained relevant in developing the capabilities of various navies and coast guards in the GoG corridor”., Ali who was represented by the ministry’s Director , Navy, Mr Patrick Ekawu said.

Earlier in his remark, an elated Vice Admiral Ibas,   expressed gratitude to all international partners for the success of this year’s exercise which he said  was flagged off with the objective of improving on the gains of previous editions.

He said, “ The Exercise was organized among others aims,  to foster regional cooperation and information sharing among GoG navies as well as other friendly navies towards tackling cross border banditry and other maritime criminalities.

Pursuant to the objectives, the exercise of the task elements in anti-piracy , hostage rescue operations and tactical fleet manoeuvres in particular were  most rewarding . I also recognize among several other highpoints the valuable practice of the Special Forces in VBSS operations and insertion/extraction of troops, evidence collection from crime scenes in conjunction with MDAs in furtherance of law enforcement and the staging of mock Medical evacuation. By this achievement, we look forward to a greatly enhanced mutual support and exchange of critical information necessary to support operations at sea”, the CNS said.

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