Paul Obi in Abuja

The United States military, the Nigerian Navy and other multinational forces across the African continent are to conduct a military exercise named Obangame Express around Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.

The operation is coming on the heels of US pledge to increase support for the Nigerian military, after the fall out of recent misgivings between the US and the Nigerian governments on military collaboration.

The exercise, according to Naval Headquarters, Abuja, is streamlined to raise security awareness within the West African sub-region, following recent rise in acts of terrorism and militancy in the zone.

The move is also part of the US defence strategy through the US African Command as part of its overseas military engagement.

Director of Information, Nigerian Navy, Captain Sulieman Dahun, explained that “a multi-national annual maritime exercise nick named Obangame Express starts today March 23, 2017.

“The exercise is sponsored by U.S Africa Command and 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.”

Dahun maintained that “the exercise will be conducted in phases within the territorial waters of the participating nations.

“Thirty nations are scheduled to participate in this year’s exercise include Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Norway, Mauritania, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, South Africa, Togo, Turkey, the Netherlands, and the United States, along with regional organisations such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).”

He said: “The Nigerian phase of Obangame Express is scheduled for March 24 to 28, 2017 and will be conducted in the nation’s waters. Nigerian Navy Ship OKPABANA, Nigerian Navy Ship CENTENARY, Nigerian Navy Ship SAGBAMA and 1 helicopter will be participating in the Exercise along with a French Navy ship, JACOUBET, which will sail into the Nigerian waters from Cameroon.

“The ships will perform several exercises as will be presented by the exercise scenario.
“Exercise Obangame Express’s purpose is to create realistic scenarios that reflect past piracy incidents whereby a hijacked vessel will transit from one territory to another.

“Maritime Operations Centres (MOCs) during the Exercise will be challenged to recognize these illicit acts appropriately and share with other MOCs.

“Additionally, the exercise will test each individual maritime force to patrol their Exclusive Economic Zones and detect and prosecute illegal activity accordingly,” Dahun submitted.