The Gulf of Guinea (GoG) is a vast area of coastline stretching from Senegal in the north to Angola in the south on the Atlantic Ocean, with 20 sovereign coastal states and islands and a number of landlocked states. This vast maritime space is not only of utmost economic significance to the adjoining countries and
The Gulf of Guinea (GoG) is a vast area of coastline stretching from Senegal in the north to Angola in the south on the Atlantic Ocean, with 20 sovereign coastal states and islands and a number of landlocked states.
This vast maritime space is not only of utmost economic significance to the adjoining countries and landlocked states but also have political, military and economic importance to the east and west power blocs.
Similar to other maritime spaces, the Gulf of Guinea also faces security challenges which threaten optimal utilization of its economic benefits. For this reason, it has become imperative for all stakeholders to continue to ensure that the area remains safe from all forms of maritime criminalities.
It is therefore instructive that the Nigerian Navy, in partnership with other African navies, have teamed up with the United States of America to engage in annual sea exercise code-named “Obangame” to demonstrate their capacity to secure the region from pirate attacks.
The word ‘Obangame’ which means “togetherness” comes from the Fang language of southern Cameroon and other parts of Central Africa.
It all began in 2010 when US Naval-Forces for Africa facilitated regional exercises which focused on increasing capabilities to deter piracy, illicit trafficking and other maritime threats.
Over the years, it has developed from basic tactics to regional cooperation, with a focus on improving the capacity of African navies to combat maritime crimes in order to allow economic activities to flourish at sea.
The multinational sea exercise, sponsored by the United States Naval Force Africa (US NAVAF), is also aimed at promoting regional cooperation among navies of Gulf of Guinea.
Among the aims of the exercise is to improve maritime domain awareness, information sharing and enhance the collective capabilities of GOG and West African nations to counter illegality in the maritime domain.
A total of Eight Nigerian Navy Ships (NNS) including two Offshore Patrol Vessels (Centenary and Unity), helicopters, one ship each from US, Portugal and Morocco, were deployed during the 2019 sea exercise on the Gulf of Guinea which lasted five days.
The voyage kicked off on March 15, with all-night patrols of the Gulf of Guinea waters by NNS Unity and Centenary, with newsmen on board for five days without berthing.
Speaking at a pre-event briefing, Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Adm. Obed Ngalabak, said about 31 countries, including 20 African nations and 11 allied countries, were participating in the exercise.
Ngalabak said: “The Obangame Express is aimed at assessing and improving GOG law enforcement capacity, promoting national and regional security, improving knowledge of African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP) planning and operations and shaping security force assistance efforts.
“The overall objectives are to assess each of the participating countries’ capabilities in Maritime Domain Awareness and Maritime Interdiction Operations.’’
During the exercise, several simulation operations took place such as search and seizure techniques, drills onboard, gun exercise, man overboard, firefighting and search and rescue.
The exercise also afforded the navy the opportunity to focus on improving its interoperability of communications and sharing of the maritime domain awareness information.