The Nigerian Navy yesterday inaugurated 16 newly acquired warships and boats, and immediately deployed them to safeguard key oil installations in the oil rich Niger Delta region and the West African maritime domain.
The deployment was to further solidify the presence of the Nigerian Navy around the Gulf of Guinea and to also curb activities of pirates’ attacks on key installations and merchant vessels disrupting economic activities at the West African maritime domain.
The new acquisitions include two 110 MKII Fast Patrol Crafts (FPC)- NNS NGURU and NNS EKULU; four 72MKII Inshore Patrol Craft (IPC)- NNS GONGOLA, NNS OSE, NNS CALABAR, and NNS SHIRORO, and 10 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBS).
These boats, the navy said, would be deployed to protect critical oil installations in the Niger Delta as well as for joint operations and patrols of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) maritime zone E.
The two 110 MKII FPC, NNS NGURU and NNS EKULU, which were named after towns in Yobe and Rivers States, were put under the command of Commanders Emmanuel Fingesi and Andrew Zidon respectively.
In his address, the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas, said the latest additions have increased the navy’s platforms acquisition in the last two years to over 200.
Noting that the navy has the challenging task of safeguarding the country’s maritime interests, Ibas said the service, in keeping with the realities, conducts frequent re-invention.
He said: “The acquisition of the six new OCEA FPC and 10 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBS) will narrow the capability gaps in enhancing security of the country’s maritime expanse.
“Their commissioning and induction respectively into the service is therefore another operational milestone for the navy as they will complement existing Maritime Domain Awareness Capability in the face of its inherent need for a potent interdiction capability.
“I must however be quick to observe that despite this commendable stride, we have barely scratched the outstanding deficit in the navy fleet. Capacity building therefore is a running priority of the navy. The navy continues to apply its double pronged approach of platform sourcing from both foreign shipyards and local manufacturing.
“Domestically, local boat building associates like Messrs Epenal Boat Builders and John Holt Plc which have accounted for the delivery of over 200 boats in the past have continued to be patronised. The navy dockyard remains productively engaged as it is on course for the delivery of a third straight Seaward Defence Boat (SDB), now a 42 meter boat.
“Furthermore, efforts are ongoing towards acquiring more fast patrol vessels for littoral waters up to the EEZ, while the construction of a hydrographic vessel and landing ship would further reinforce the navy’s regional maritime dominance.”
Also at the event were Defence Minister Mansur Dan-Ali; Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Usani Uguru Usani; Inspector General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris; Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, Isa Misau; Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on the Navy, Abdulsamad Dasuki, and Director General, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala-Usman, heads of military and paramilitary institutions in Lagos as well as captains of industries.
Inaugurating the platforms, Dan-Ali said the country was challenged by multi-faceted threats from both continental and maritime fronts with grave manifestations and increasing threats to maritime security.
He said crimes such as piracy and attack on strategic oil installations have complicated the country’s maritime security environment and threatened with dire consequences, the overall wellbeing of Nigeria.