By John Maxwell, Accra, Ghana
On March 19, West African Navies flagged off the 2021 edition of the Multinational International sea maneuver, commonly referred to as EXERCISE OBANGAME EXPRESS.
The exercise which is sponsored by United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), OE21 is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness (MDA), information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of participating nations to counter sea-based illicit activity.
The naval maneuver which is the largest multinational maritime exercise in Western Africa, is in its 10th year and will had 32 nations involved at at its flag-off in Accra, Ghana.
According to Rear Admiral Michael Baze , the Director of Maritime Headquarters US Naval Forces Africa, “Obangame Express allows us to develop skills, with our regional partners, that will have a lasting impact on regional security in the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean, Our past exercises led to tangible, real-world success stories and OE21 is a chance for us to build upon those successes.”
At the flag off in Lagos, which was done on board the Navy combat vessel NNS THUNDER, The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo said that the exercise is geared towards protecting the maritime environment and securing the Gulf of Guinea against pirates and sea robbers.
Admiral Gambo said that the multinational maritime exercise was birthed for regional maritime safety and security, adding that the exercise was an annual multinational maritime operation borne out of the need for Gulf of Guinea Navies to work together for regional maritime safety and security.
He said: “This is as a result of the huge resources and vast potential being continuously undermined by multifaceted domestic and cross border threats. “This challenges the dwindling prosperity of member states.”
The CNS said that the exercise would present an ample opportunity for the Nigerian Navy to work together with other national and regional navies in the spirit of the Yaounde Code of Conduct.
“This code is designed to improve operational readiness, maritime domain awareness, information sharing practices and tactical interdiction expertise.
“This will enhance the collective capabilities of Gulf of Guinea and West African nations to counter sea based illicit activities.
“It will also enhance the operational capability of the Nigeria Navy in its fight against various forms of maritime crime through information and intelligence sharing.”