Nigeria hosts international maritime military exercise

Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - A four-day international maritime military exercise, code named Obangame Express 2012, began in the Gulf of Guinea Monday.

The exercise, which is being hosted by Nigeria through the Eastern Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy (NN), is being attended by 13 nations including Nigeria, US, France, Italy, Spain, Cameroon, Ghana, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome & Principe, Togo, Benin Republic and Republic of Congo.

Four warships from the Nigerian Navy have been designated to be part of the exercise, while the participating nations are expected to deploy their own warships or observers.

In addition to the warships, the NN will also deploy its helicopters while the Nigerian Air Force is to deploy a Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA).

Some other NN warships would be deployed near the Exercise area to interject when required.

Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin, told journalists in Calabar that the "Obangame Express is a maritime interdiction exercise based on simulated scenarios of the most prevalent international crimes at sea.

''It is aimed at enhancing the response capabilities of the Navies in the Gulf of Guinea. It is designed to encourage countries in the region to improve on inter-operability of communications and sharing maritime domain awareness information, with a view to harnessing their collective efforts to combat piracy, human trafficking and other sea-based crimes.''

He said the strategic objectives of the exercise were to ensure maritime safety and security through international military partnerships and to develop trained and motivated maritime professional.

According to FOC, West and Central African nations can improve international investment significantly if they cooperate to protect oil reserves and shipping lanes.

PANA reports that the Gulf of Guinea runs from Guinea on Africa's North Western tip to Angola in the South.

Though piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is not on the scale being witnessed off Somalia, analysts said an increase in scope and number of attacks in a region ill-equipped to counter the threat could affect shipping and investment.

Admiral Jibrin, who is the chairman of the Obangame Express Local Organising Committee, expressed regret that "pervasive insecurity in this resource-laden maritime environment has resulted in more than US$2 billion in annual financial losses''.

Exercise Obangame Express is the third in the annual maritime exercises conducted by the US government, its European partners and African maritime nations.

The name Obangame was taken from Cameroon's Fang language, which means 'togetherness'.
-0- PANA MON/SEG 20Feb2012

20 february 2012 12:43:27

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