In a show of support for the Nigerian Navy’s continuous quest to ameliorate maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea waters, the Brazilian Naval Ship F LIBERAL and United Kingdom HMS TRENT, recently arrived Lagos. Chiemelie Ezeobi reports that beyond the diplomatic nature of such port calls, the main derivative was to improve defence capability while developing joint operational planning and intelligence sharing in securing the Gulf of Guinea waters
On March 3, 2022, Nigeria was delisted from list of piracy- prone countries as conveyed in the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) report of March 3, 2022.
Prior to this, the IMB Global Piracy Report of July 14, 2021, indicated that Nigeria recorded the lowest total of piracy and sea robbery against ships in 27 years and it was months later corroborated by the Defence Web Maritime Security Report of October 15, 2021 which noted further decline in reported cases of piracy and armed attacks against shipping.
But despite these achievements, which has been sustained till date, the Nigerian Navy is not resting on its oars in protecting its maritime domain. However, given the borderless nature of maritime crimes, especially in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) waters, its contribution is pivotal if the gains made will be sustained perpetually.
But to do this, partnerships and collaborations, either regional or international, are needed. It was in tandem with such partnerships that the NN recently received the Brazilian Navy Ship (BNS) F LIBERAL and Her Royal Majesty Ship (HMS) TRENT to its waters in Lagos.
Beyond the port calls, which are diplomatic in nature (forging and blending bi-lateral relations between nations), the arrival of both ships were targeted at improving defence capability while developing joint operational planning and intelligence sharing in securing the Gulf of Guinea waters. Essentially, both navies came to aid the regional partners in driving down illegal activities including piracy and illicit trafficking its waters.
Strengthening UK-Nigeria Maritime Security Synergy
To support the regional maritime security structure on the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) waters, United Kingdom Warship, HMS Trent, a Royal Navy warship, arrived Nigeria.
Although this is its second visit to Nigeria as part of its regional mission to aid allies and partners in driving down illegal activities including piracy and illicit trafficking, the visit will help deliver capacity training and support maritime security in the region.
Thus, the visit underscores the commitment of the United Kingdom to strengthening maritime security and cooperation with Nigeria, ultimately contributing to stability and prosperity in the Gulf of Guinea and the wider West African region.
With around £6 billion of UK trade passing through the region, part of Trent’s tasking is to support stability across the Gulf of Guinea through training to help partner navies take the fight to criminal actors, fostering ties and sharing knowledge, whilst conducting patrols to increase security.
Also, during the one-month long deployment, they intend to contribute to a wider international effort by the Friends of the Gulf of Guinea (FOGG) which supports GoG nations to implement regional maritime security frameworks, bringing stability to a region that has seen international shipping disrupted, seafarers’ lives put in danger, and damage caused to local economies.
As part of the collaborative efforts with the Nigerian Navy on various fronts, the crew will focus on countering piracy, narcotics, and other illicit maritime activities.
HMS Trent’s Commanding Officer, Commander Tim Langford, said: “It is an honour for HMS TRENT to return to Nigeria, an important visit on the Ship’s three month deployment to West Africa. We are excited to work with our partner nations as we strive for a long term solution to maritime insecurity across the region.
“The Royal Navy has a long history of engagement within the region and an enduring partnership with the Armed Forces of Nigeria. My team are really looking forward to the opportunity to work with their Nigerian counterparts and build on the relationships established when we visited Lagos in 2021.”
Also speaking, UK Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos, Jonny Baxter said: “This deployment demonstrates how a truly Global Britain is stepping up on the world stage to tackle shared international security challenges.
“Nigeria is an important and valued defence partner for the UK in West Africa. Our two countries face many shared threats and we are keen to work with Nigeria to defeat these and to help improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea.”
The Deputy High Commissioner further emphasised the need for stability, safety, and prosperity in Nigeria, as it plays a pivotal role in Africa, boasting the continent’s second-largest economy and its largest population.
Received by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command (WNC), Rear Admiral Mohammed Abdullahi, during the courtesy call at the command headquarters in Apapa, Lagos, he reiterated the gains achieved by the NN, pledging to consolidate on it.
He also noted that the partnership between the NN and its British counterpart was welcome given that borderless nature of maritime crimes.
Collaboration by Brazilian Navy Ship to Preserve Security in GoG
But days before the arrival of HMS TRENT, a Brazilian Navy frigate F Liberal arrived Lagos with over 200 officers and men. The F Liberal (F-43), a Niterói-class frigate of the Brazilian Navy, arrived Lagos on September 5, 2023. The Command Operations Officer, Headquarters, Western Naval Command, Commodore NS Lakan, received the visiting ship after which a deck reception was organised onboard the ship.
However, the Task Group Commander,
Admiral Andrea Felix led the Commanding Officer of Brazilian Navy Ship (BNS) LIBERAL, Commander Rogerio Diniz and the Brazilian Defence Attachè, Colonel Anderson Marques to headquarters Western Naval Command to pay a courtesy visit during their three-day port call to Lagos.
Apart from the diplomatic nature of the visit, they also partnered the NN on a maritime interdiction exercise in the GoG waters. Amongst other things, the visit was aimed to improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea and relations between Nigeria and Brazil, whilst ensuring secure passage for commercial ships.
Stressing that the Brazilian frigate was in Nigeria for collaborative exercises to preserve security in the Gulf of Guinea, the TG Commander commended the NN for the laudable achievement of protecting its waters.
He also said the men were willing and ready to impart knowledge to their Nigerian counterpart and would also learn from them in return.
Essentially, the task of the crew was to offer maritime security operations, training, confidence building, cooperation, naval diplomacy and promotion of Brazilian excellence.
He said, “One of our objective is to promote joint exercises and training in order to develop the capabilities of some of the navies of the visited countries to boost their effectiveness in surveillance activities and maritime security in their operational environment.”
In his response, the FOC West, who was represented by the COO, Rear Admiral Jonathan Mamman, regaled the visitors about the efforts of the navy in securing its maritime domain, which has paid off with the latest IMB report of no piracy in the nation’s waters.
He also harped on the need for collaboration in developing the skills of the NN, adding that whatever knowledge and experience gained would enhance operations aimed at maintaining a secure marine environment.
Stressing on the vision of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ikechukwu Ogalla, he said the NN is ready to sustain the unrelenting war against oil theft, illegal bunkering and piracy in the maritime domain.
This visit underscores the commitment of the United Kingdom to strengthening maritime security and cooperation with Nigeria, ultimately contributing to stability and prosperity in the Gulf of Guinea and the wider West African region