Nosa Alekhuogie

The federal government has been urged to secure regional water ways as this would make Nigeria the focal point of maritime trade in Africa.

The Chief of Multinational Coordination Centre Zone D, Captain Sylvestre Mbah, who made the call during a teleconference, which held at the United States Department of State Africa Regional Media Hub, urged President Muhammadu Buhari and Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi to ensure that West and Central African countries worked together to combat piracy, illicit trafficking and illegal fishing, among others.

The government was also implored to improve its maritime capabilities, expertise and also, collaborate with other member-countries of the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) and Economic Community of Central African State (ECCAS) to boost security on the waterways.

Mbah also spoke to journalist on the 2016 Exercise Obangame/Saharan Express, which began last week in Dakar, Senegal.

This year’s exercise focuses on training on search and rescue operations, and advanced medical training. It also included a wide variety of training for all participating forces including at-sea ship boarding and queries, air operations, communication drills, and regional information sharing.

Mbah noted that Nigeria, Cameroon and other African countries have benefited from Obangame in terms of capacity building and information sharing, urging the 32 participating countries to have the political will and good legal framework to protect local and international waters.

The US Naval Officer in charge of the exercise, Navy Captain Heidi Agle, noted that the collaboration is aimed at strengthening ties in transportation, shipping, tourism, and also, improve participating countries’ economies.

She said: “The overall objective of the exercise is to encourage the regional countries to work together to increase their capacity to cure what I call “sea blindness,” which is to increase their maritime domain awareness.
Regional security is vital to us all, and mutual understanding makes us a stronger, faster team.

She further added: “Maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea has improved due to our collective efforts. It takes strength, co-operation, and commitment to combat the criminals who operate at sea. We have seen ECOWAS and ECCAS nations possess the will, the capability, and the capacity to successfully conduct operations to enhance maritime security.”