Nigerian Navy at 68: Reinforcing Its Sea Power Capabilities

Although the Nigerian Navy started off from humble beginnings, Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that the service has come a long way from the colonial marine department of the Royal Navy with few coastal boats to its inventory, to become one of the best navies not only in the West African Sub-region, but also in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) and indeed the entire sub-Saharan Africa. Recently, it marked its 68th anniversary with activities ranging from medical outreaches to regional maritime exercises, hosting an International Maritime Conference and inaugurating the International Maritime Institute of Nigeria, a move that reinforced its status in the comity of sea powers 

The origin of the Nigerian Navy (NN) can be traced to the colonial marine department  of the Royal Navy (RN) established in 1887 as a quasi-military organisation combining the duties of the present day Nigerian Ports Authority, the Inland Water Ways and the modern day navy until the end of the Second World War in 1945.

In 1956, a policy statement by the government led to the establishment of a Nigerian Naval Force and on June 1, 1956, the NNDF commenced operations with 11 assorted ships and craft comprising two survey vessels (PETREL and PATHFINDER), two training boats (DIGNITY and NYMPH), one patrol craft (CHALLENGER), three VIP boats (VALIANT and FRANCES with her Launch), one tug (TROJAN) and one general purpose launch (JADE).

On August 1, 1956, the first naval legislation was passed by the House of Representatives and was assented to on September 5, 1956 by Sir James Robertson, the Governor General and the Nigerian Navy Ordinance led to the designation of the NNDF as Royal Nigerian Navy.

In 1963, when Nigeria became a republic, the prefix “Royal” was dropped and the name became Nigerian Navy (NN). The Ordinance that set up the NN had several limitations, the principal one among them was the limitation placed on the Navy to patrol only three nautical miles, which was the limit of the territorial waters. 

The shortcomings were corrected by the post independence Navy Act of 1964. This Act removed the principal limitation of the NN to the country’s territorial waters. In these early years, the NN had only a few patrol boats but has over the years now grown significantly into a multi-mission maritime arm of the Nigerian Armed Forces with various wartime and peacetime roles.

With its establishment, the NN, according to the  1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 is charged with the territorial defence of Nigeria by sea. Its tripartite roles cover the full spectrum of military, policing and diplomatic functions. 

Under these spectrum, its roles include enforcing and assisting in coordinating the enforcement of all customs, immigration, bunkering, fishery protection and pollution laws (coastguard duties), including enforcement of all national and international maritime laws ascribed to or acceded to by Nigeria. 

Its roles are backed by the Armed Forces Act  which charged the NN to enforce and assist in coordinating the enforcement of all national and international maritime laws ascribed or acceded to by Nigeria. Other duties include making of charts and coordinating national hydrographic surveys as well as promoting, coordinating and enforcing safety regulations in the territorial waters and the EEZ of Nigeria.

Past Icons of the Navy

Often referred to as Icons of the Navy, the past list of  of CNS since the inception of the NN includes Captain FW Skutil, who was CNS from 1956 to 1958 and Commodore AR Kennedy who held the helm of affairs from 1958 to 1964. Others were ViceCommodore JEA Wey from 1964 to 1973; ViceAdmira NB Soroh, from 1973 to 1975 and ViceAdmiral MA Adelanwa from 1975 to 1980.

Not left out were Vice Admiral AA Aduwo from 1980 to 1893; Vice Admiral AA Aikhomu from 1984 to 1986; Vice Admiral Patrick Koshini from 1986 to 1990; Vice Admirak Murtala Nyako from 1990 to 1992; Vice Admiral DPE Omotsola from 1992 to 1993; Rear Admiral S. Sa’idu who was appointed in 1993 and removed same year. 

Others after his include Rear Admiral AA Madueke from 1993 to 1994; Rear Admiral OM Akhigbe from 1994 to 1998; Vice Admiral J. Ayinla from 1998 to 1999; Vice Admiral VK Ombu from 1999 to 2001; ViceAdmiral SO Afoloyan from 2001 to 2005; Vice AdmiralGTA Adekeye from 2005 to 2008 and Vice Admiral II Ibrahim from 2008 to 2010.

Ibrahim was succeeded by Vice Admiral OS Ibrahim from 2010 to 2012; Vice Admiral DJ Ezeoba took over in 2012 and handed over to Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin in 2013. In 2015, Vice Admiral Ibok Ete Ibas took over as the 20th Chief of the Naval Staff; and handed over to Vice Admiral AZ Gambo in 2021 and he held sway until 2023 when he handed over to the present chief, Vice Admiral Ikechukwu Emmanuel Ogalla. 

Navy Nigerian @68 in Focus 

The NN Anniversary Celebration, often referred to as ‘Navy Week’, is an annual event held to commemorate the establishment of the NN as an arm of force on June 1, 1956.

The sequence of what would turn out to be 68th anniversary of the NN was unveiled on May 20 by Chief of Policy and Plans (CPPLANS), Rear Admiral Joseph Akpan, at an International Press Conference in Abuja. 

Series of activities started off with the Special Juma’at Prayers on Friday, May 24, 2024 while the Interdenominational Church Service held on Sunday, May 26. On Monday, May 27, Medical Rhapsodies and Naval Officers’ Wives Association Activities (NOWA) was held  simultaneously on Monday, 27 May 2024 and on Wednesday, May 29 May, there was be an ice-breaker at Eko Hotel and Suites Lagos. 

On Thursday, May 30, was the flag-off of the Regional Maritime Exercise and the International Maritime Conference by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who was represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima. 

On the side line, the Meeting of Gulf of Guinea Heads of Navies and Coast Guards held on May 31. Then on June 1, the International Maritime Institute of Nigeria (IMION) was inaugurated before the Ceremonial Sunset/ Reunion Dinner at Naval Dockyard Limited Victoria Island, which marked the end of the Navy Week. 


As part of the Directorate of Naval Education’s contribution to 68th anniversary, it held the CNS Inter-School Debate, Quiz, and STEM competition for the Nigerian Navy Military and Secondary Schools.

Held at Nigerian NavySecondary School (NNSS) Ojo, Lagos, the competition themed ‘Information and Communication Technology: A Panacea for Improved Educational Service and National Development’ had 36 participants.

Regional Maritime Exercise

Held on Thursday, 30 May to Saturday, 1 June 2024, the Regional Maritime Exercise (REMEX) is an international maritime sea exercise involving navies from Africa, Europe, Asia, North and South America.

With 18 platforms comprising capital ships, boats and helicopters, the NN led foreign naval ships like Brazilian Navy Ship APA, Cameroonian Navy Ship DIPIKAR, Peoples Liberation Army Navy Ship XU CHANG, French Navy Ship OSV COMMANDANT BIROT, Ghana Navy Ship CHEMLE, United States Ship HERSHEL WOODY WILLIAMS to patrol the Gulf of Guinea Waters.

But prior to this, the Western Naval Command (WNC) of the Nigerian Navy (NN) hosted a Combined Sea Exercise 16nautical miles South-West of Lagos Fairway Buoy with four navies of NNS KANO (Nigerian Navy); BNS APA (Brazilian Navy); ITS BETTICA (Italian Navy); and SP FUROR, (Spanish Navy) and conducted PASSEX Form 1 and Form D as a rehearsal for REMEX. 

International Maritime Conference

Prior to the opening ceremony of the International Maritime Conference (IMC) on Thursday, May 30, the CNS had the previous day hosted an ice breaker for all the participating navies at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island Lagos. 

The IMC sought to catalyse effective cooperation on maritime security across Africa as a key driver for unlocking the continent’s immense Blue Economy potential in line with the vision of the 2050 African Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS).

Themed “Promoting the Blue Economy in Africa through International Cooperation on Maritime Security, the conference hosted delegations from 21 African countries, 17 non-African countries and 13 International/regional organisations.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, represented by his Vice flagged off the IMC as well as inaugurated three warships and two helicopters including NNS OCHUZOR -35m Hydrographic Survey Vessel; NNS CHALAWA – 32m Seaward Defence Boat (SDB); NNS ZUR 32m (Seaward Defence Boat); and Helos NN 412 and 414. 

Applauding Vice Admiral Ogalla’s anti- crude oil theft operations which has led to increasing levels oil production for Nigeria, the president described the NN as “lifeguards of Nigeria’s Maritime Environment”.  

On Friday, May 31, was the closing ceremony of the two-day IMC. Leveraging Maritime Security Collaboration for Harnessing Blue Economy in Africa:Strategies and Mechanisms for Success was delivered by Dr. Paul Adalikwu and moderated by Rear Admiral Patrick Hayden.  The Communique was read by the Chief of Policy and Plans, Rear Admiral JD Akpan.

CDS, CNS Tour of Naval Dockyard Limited

The Naval Dockyard Limited (NDL), which is the pride of the Nigerian Navy given the large scale fabrication and construction work it’s doing both locally (including the three indigenously built vessels- Nigerian Navy Ships (NNS) ANDONI, KARADUWA, and OJI for the NN) and regionally, was toured by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Gwabin Musa (OFR). He was led by the CNS and the NDL Admiral Superintendent, Rear Admiral Bolaji Orederu. 

This was apart from the earlier tour by the CNS as a prelude to the anniversary where he inspected the construction site for Seaward Defence Boats (SDB) 4 & 5 and afterwards inaugurated the renovated General Manager Sea Training (GMST) Block, the Electroplating Plant, the Galvanising Plant, the newly constructed elevator for NDL Conference Hall, the NDL Gallery, the remodelled Administrative Block, the Upgraded NDL Officers Mess and the NDL Sports Complex. 

Earlier at the Interdenominational Church Service in  CNS said the navy’s fleet renewal effort had been given serious boost through its local shipbuilding effort, adding that it had become a cardinal point of his vision and “its realisation is the only way to grow as a navy by tapping into local content in all its key areas of development of which shipbuilding is part of”.

He added that the service also recognised that shipbuilding and ship repairs would contribute effectively to the overall growth of the economy.

Combined Task Force Deliberations 

Same Friday, the CNS hosted a meeting of Chiefs of Naval Staff/CoastGuards of Gulf of Guinea Region (CGG-GGC) to discuss the modalities of the Combined Maritime Task Force (CMTF). 

Launch of International Maritime Institute of Nigeria

On Saturday, June 1, 2024, Vice Admiral Ogalla was joined by Chairman Senate Committee on the Navy, Senator Otunba Gbenga Daniel to launch the “International Maritime Institute of Nigeria (IMION)”, a proposed confluence for international maritime discourse and the vehicle for articulating maritime strategy on the African Continent.

According to the Director of Information, Commodore Aiwuyor Adams-Aliu, the IMION led by Rear Admiral TC Udofia (rtd) is poised to become the platform/think-tank for maritime strategic thinkers, practitioners, and allies to interact, share ideas, and research into maritime strategic affairs affecting the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) & beyond as it would focus on dicourse of thematic areas such as maritime & ocean governance, maritime security, law enforcement, hydrography, blue economy, climate change amongst others. 

The Trajectory of the NN Under Vice Admiral Ikechukwu Ogalla

Upon assumption of office one year ago as the Chief of Naval Staff(CNS), Vice Admiral Ikechukwu Emmanuel Ogalla had pledged to “Maintain and equip a professionally competent and ethical naval force while leveraging on all element of national power for the effective defence of Nigeria’s maritime area of interest against all form of threat in fulfillment of national security imperatives”. 

This was in line with his vision for “A highly motivated professional naval force capable of shaping the security outcomes within Nigeria’s maritime domain and the littorals including land-based engagements in fulfilment of Nigeria’s national interest”. 

Therefore, putting in perspective the achievements of Vice Admiral EI Ogalla in his role as CNS, the CPLANS said under the NN has attained the highest state of operational readiness in the discharge of its constitutional roles in one year. 

He said: “The fight against Crude Oil Theft has been a huge success under the auspices of OPERATION DELTA SANITY which was re-launched in January 2024. In the nine months of its existence, the operation has led to the arrest of various suspects and vessels involved in COT. 

“Some of these vessels include MT KALI, MT SWEET HARBOUR SPIRIT, MT SAISNIL, MV TOKITO, MT VINILLARIS and MT SWEET MIRI, among others. This has impacted positively on Nigeria’s crude oil production. For instance, OPEC Records for the month of April 2024 state that Nigeria’s Crude Oil Exports rose to #1.28m bpd in April from #1.23m bpd in March. This is in line with the President’s directive to eradicate COT in order to ramp up Nigeria’s oil production and exports. 

“In line with its TOTAL SPECTRUM MARITIME STRATEGY, the NN has continued to support land operations in all the Geo-political Zones. The NN has also provide all year-round situation awareness of Nigeria’s maritime domain extending to the limits of the Exclusive Economic Zone through its Maritime Domain Awareness Facilities which enabled early detection and swift response to incidences within the maritime environment.

“This has ensured that Nigeria maintained its zero piracy status in the International Maritime Bureau piracy rating. In terms of fleet renewal, the NN has taken delivery of various platforms which has supported its Anti-piracy, Ant-COT, Anti-IUU and Anti-illegal drug trafficking among others. Notably, the NN has taken delivery of its second offshore survey vessel, 2 x 32m FPBs, and 2 x Helicopters. 

“The NN is also expected to take delivery of 2 x 76m OPVs from Turkey later in the year. In the area of infrastructure, the NN has established a composite operations Base in Enugu State to curtail the prevailing insecurities in the SE and NC Regions.

“Additionally, the Naval Training Command was relocated to Eleme in Rivers State. In its place, the NN has established the International Maritime Institute of Nigeria. The Institute will serve as a strategic maritime think-tank for Nigeria thereby contributing effectively to global maritime discourse to shape the future of sea power and its application. 

“Aware of the need to collaborate with other maritime security agencies such as NIMASA, NPA, NDLEA, NOSDRA, NEMA as well as foreign partners, the NN has staged and participated in several local and international exercises and operations. Some of these include EX CROCODILE LIFT/AFRICAN GRANDE AFRICA NEMO, EX SEA GUARDIAN, EX NCHEKWA OSHIMIRI, OP WATER GUARD, OP SWIFT RESPONSE and EX OBANGAME EXPRESS 2024.”

Also, it would be pertinent to state that sequel to Navy Board approval, Nigerian Navy Ship MADUEKE was also established in Enugu as a Special Operations Composite Base, of which the CNS said will lead to other bases being established to improve maritime security operations and stall criminals from carrying out nefarious activities within the maritime environment.

Although the Nigerian Navy has grown from its humble beginning with a handful of coastal boats into a force to be reckoned with, not only in the West African Sub-region, but also in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) and indeed the entire sub-Saharan Africa, there is always room for more improvement and under the leadership of Vice Admiral Ikechukwu Emmanuel Ogalla, the future is bright. 

Applause for Information Officers 

Although the anniversary might have come and gone, perhaps one thing that stood out was the influx of young officers, especially females with the knack for public speaking and excellent composure, while anchoring. 

Under the naval information wing headed by the Director of Information, Commodore Aiwuyor Adams-Aliu, the navy utilised its greatest assets-its information officers, earning them commendations.

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