Naval Change of Baton

Chiemelie Ezeobi, who witnessed the change of baton for the flag officers commanding of the Western and Naval Training commands, both in Lagos, reports on the military event

As with most military traditions, the handing and taking over ceremonies of commands provide ample opportunity to showcase their longstanding tradition in colourful parades. So it was last Monday and Tuesday at the Naval Training Command (NAVTRAC) and Western Naval Command (WNC), respectively, both in Lagos. The occasion was the farewell parade and send off ceremony of Rear Admirals Obi Ofodile of NAVTRAC and Sylvanus Abbah of WNC.

The military is an institution known for adhering to tradition no matter how long ago it was established. Tradition, they say, never dies and that particularly holds true for the military. The Nigerian Navy, one of the three arms of the Nigerian Armed Forces, is not an exception.
For the navy, instead of tradition being deemed as archaic and out-dated, they are seen as an anchor to their past, constantly reminding them of where they are coming from, where they are now, and where they hope to be. It would therefore be safe to say that the very tapestry or fabric that holds the military together is its customs and traditions.

Even though those traditions might not be understood by civilians, because of what they deem excessive regimentation, for the military, the traditions are their heritage, even as they seek to align themselves with contemporary modern day structures and practices.

After spending 14 months at the helm of affairs of NAVTRAC, it was time to say goodbye for Ofodile. The occasion was heralded by a ceremonial parade, which saw officers and men of the command assemble at the parade ground of Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Quorra, Apapa.

The parade began with form up of divisions and the guards before the throw in markers and march on of the divisions and guards. After the arrival of the senior officers, the parade was officially kick-started with a march past that was inspected by Ofodile. He afterward went on to read his farewell speech leading to the FOC’s exchange of Distinguishing Flags. After the marching in review order and three hearty cheers for Ofodile, the parade commander then marched off the personnel.

In his farewell address, Ofodile said the naval authorities were prepared to recruit retired instructors to overcome the dearth of adequate qualified teachers for its training institutions under NAVTRAC. Ofodile, who lamented that the dearth of adequate instructors for the colleges under the command, was one of the challenges he faced in his 14 months in office, however said the naval authorities were poised to resolve the situation.

According to him, one of the major solutions was to recruit some of the retired naval personnel, both officers and men, who were once instructors while in active service. Already, he said such underlisted persons had been invited for an interview, and the shortlisted retirees would be employed in their capacity as civilians.

Aside the dearth of instructors, he cited inadequate teaching aids and models, paucity of funds, inadequate accommodation and vehicles as other constraints he faced, adding that already they are receiving priority attention from the naval headquarters.

Ofodile said, “I assumed command as the FOC in June 2017. Within the past 14 months, my staff and I have worked diligently as a team, with a shared commitment to meet the training requirements of the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) Strategic Directive-2.

“As we all know, NAVTRAC is saddled with the primary responsibility of meeting the professional manpower needs of the NN. Mindful of this role, the command identified key requirements to make its professional trainings meet current NN operational realities and needs.

“Accordingly, some training packages were introduced into the curricula of our colleges and cools in other to meet prevailing contemporary security situation and emergent threats confronting our nation today.

“As part of efforts to tackle the training requirements/necessities arising from contemporary security challenges in the nation’s maritime domain, the command initiated a consultation process with some stakeholders in the maritime environment. Some of the recommendations are already being implemented while others are being analysed for further necessary actions.”

Noteworthy also is that under Ofodile’s watch, NAVTRAC took over the command and management of the Joint Maritime Security Training Centre, which was previously under the Defence Headquarters.

Noting that democracy was deep rooted in the country, Ofodile advised personnel to protect and preserve it. He enjoined personnel to subject themselves to constituted civil authority at all times and remain non-partisan.
He said, “We must observe and relate cordially with members of the civil society and recognise that democracy regards the support and defence of human rights as sacrosanct.,

“Accordingly, we must also strive to live above board and steer the course of honour, selfless service and dedication to our duties and our fatherland. Therefore, we must professionally uphold the tenets of fundamental human rights in all our activities.

“Keep away from all forms of corruption and corrupt practices, illegal activities/behaviours including drug abuse and illegal duties. Allow the good teachings of your religions and your positive cultural, moral values to show in your daily activities, including official duties. Do not covet not pocket what belongs to others, including your subordinates.”

Speaking also, the new FOC, Rear Admiral Stanford Enoch, said given the commendable job done by his predecessor, he would build on the successes.

Abbah’s Valedictory Remarks
At the Western Naval Command, the event was held on Tuesday. The outgone FOC, Rear Admiral Abbah, handed over to Rear Admiral Obed Ngalabak at a colourful parade held at the parade ground of NNS BEECROFT.

While appreciating the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe-Ette Ibas, for the opportunity to serve, Abbah in his farewell address also commended the officers and men of the command for their support during his tenure, which he said was a confirmation of their high level of professionalism and ability to serve Nigeria.

Abbah said he assumed office on July 4, 2017, as the 37th FOC for WNC and upon assumption of office, he worked hard to meet the requirements of the CNS Strategic Directive 2016-2, which is in furtherance of the CNS mission statement, which is “to deploy a naval force that is well trained, organised and highly motivated to discharge its constitutional roles professionally and efficiently for the defence of Nigeria in ensuring her economic prosperity”.

He said, “As you may be aware, the WNC which is the premier command of the NN has a coastline of about 154 nautical miles and sea area of 30,800 square nautical miles. This represents about 37 per cent of Nigeria’s total sea area. In line with the Revised Nigerian Navy Transformation Plan 2011 2020 and the CNS Strategic Directives 2016-2, the command has striven to discharge NN roles in its Area of Responsibility (AOR) in line with global best practices.
“During my tenure therefore, the command carefully analysed the prevailing contemporary security situation in the country and came up with robust policing duties, sustained internal security operations, guidelines for prudent use of resources as well as improved welfare programmes. Other proactive measures under my watch included training and development of manpower and enhanced cooperative engagements with relevant agencies.

“Within the last 14 months FOC, we have collectively been unflappable while serving in a very challenging maritime environment. As a duty to the nation, we have also committed own personnel to land-based security challenged areas in faraway terrains like Jos, Maiduguri, Lake Chad and other volatile areas occasioned by the Boko Haram menace.
“Even in your traditional AOR, which is our maritime environment, several maritime crimes and illegalities have been vigorously curtailed by our gallant personnel despite inadequate platforms, patrol boats, arms and ammunition. I am indeed proud of these modest achievements. I will particularly want to note our personnel who paid the supreme sacrifice in the course of curtailing these challenges, may their souls rest in perfect peace.”

On successes achieved in their military, policing and diplomatic roles, he cited the arrest and handover of 26 vessels to appropriate prosecuting agencies, rescue of four Chinese citizens kidnapped from a fishing vessel, successful conduct of operation and exercises, construction of numerous infrastructure across various units under command as well as the successful conduct of the NN 62nd anniversary, involving REMEX and IMC 2018 among others, as well as the successful reception of the multi-billion dollar FPSO EGINA in the midst of threats from militant attacks.

He added the successful dislodgment of Kings Guard contracted by Top Line Security and from Atlas Cove. He urged the officers and men of the command to extend same support, enthusiasm, dedication to duty and absolute loyalty to his successor, Rear Admiral Ngalabak, whom he described as a thoroughbred and professional senior officer and gentleman.

Both Abbah and Ofodile have handed over as the 37th and 31st FOCs, respectively, and the navy marches on. For the navy, and the military at large, tradition has indeed come to stay.

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