Since his appointment as the Chief of Naval Staff by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 26, 2021, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo has been consistent in ensuring that the service optimally performs its constitutional role.
He has vigorously pursued his vision for the Navy which in brief, is to ‘leverage on all factors an re-energise the Nigerian Navy as a well-motivated and ready force in the discharge of its mandate and other assigned tasks in fulfilment of national security objectives’.
Towards achieving the vision, the CNS has focused on some key drivers. He said the Navy under his watch, “would ensure personnel welfare is accorded high priority towards enhanced patriotism, integrity, productivity, innovation, commitment and dedication.
“It will also focus on human capacity development through result-oriented training for enhanced professionalism and as well strengthening logistics support and maintenance capabilities to sustain equipment serviceability and platform availability.
“It will reinforce the culture of self-sufficiency through sustained investment in Research and Development and prudent management of resources, promote inter-service cooperation and forge strategic partnerships with Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs), credible maritime stakeholders as well as collaborative engagement with international partners.
“Furthermore, the Service will promote and sustain the Nigerian Navy core values of integrity, professionalism and teamwork.”
On assuming command, the CNS directed that all on-going operations in the Nigerian Navy should focus on checking piracy, sea robbery, crude oil theft and illegal refining of petroleum products. To this end, Vice Admiral Gambo has ensured that all logistics needed by naval personnel to succeed in the onerous task of securing Nigeria’s maritime environment covering thousands of nautical miles are adequately provided.
Consequently, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) announced the country’s exit from the global list of piracy-prone countries. This feat came as a welcome follow-up to the IMB’s Global Piracy Report of July 2021, which indicated that Nigeria had recorded its lowest amount of piracy and sea robbery in 27 years. This was a major milestone.
This feat was achieved following the significant success occasioned by the Nigerian Navy’s increased maritime security operations against maritime crimes in collaboration with other agencies.
Also, these remarkable milestones are the fallout of the unprecedented naval and maritime security investments by the Buhari administration through initiatives such as the Falcon Eye Maritime Domain Awareness System, commissioned by President Buhari in 2021, and the Regional Maritime Awareness Capability Centres which allow the Nigerian Navy to monitor its territorial waters and beyond.
Weeks after the March 2022 IMB announcement of Nigeria exiting the Piracy List, the Nigerian Navy launched one of its biggest operations in years, Operation Dakatar Da Barawo, to curb crude oil theft and vandalism in the creeks of the Niger Delta. The operation, which was launched in partnership with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited has since begun yielding results.
So far, more than N80billion worth of stolen petroleum products have been seized or recovered, with hundreds of arrests made. Notably, oil production, which had been declining since the start of 2022, reversed course and began climbing steadily from October, a feat that all stakeholders have roundly commended.
Also, figures released by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) last week indicate that Nigeria’s crude oil production climbed to 1,258 million barrels per day, the highest in recent times.
Further more, one of the successes of the fight against oil theft on Nigerian maritime domain was the interception, in August 2022, of a very large crude carrier (VLCC), the MT Heroic Idun, a timely action that helped abort unauthorised entry into a producing Nigerian oilfield.
Working with Nigeria’s regional partners, through the Yaoundé Architecture, a Gulf of Guinea maritime safety and security coordinating mechanism covering 19 countries, the Nigerian Navy successfully alerted Equatorial Guinea to arrest the vessel, which had by then fled into the country’s waters. The vessel and her crew are currently being prosecuted by Nigerian authorities for illegally entering Nigerian waters and attempting to load crude without authorisation.
Another notable achievement of the Nigerian Navy under Vice Admiral Gambo is fleet recapitalization. Any force is only as good as its military hardware and in the case of the Nigerian Navy, its platforms. This is because in improving the domestic and even external maritime environment, aggressive fleet recapitalisation strategy must be enabled for maximum output.
This includes the purchase of several new platforms, including a brand-new Hydrographic Survey Ship, NNS LANA, and a new warship, the Landing Ship Tank (LST) NNS KADA, whose first operational assignment was to support the ECOWAS Stabilisation Force in Guinea Bissau in August 2022.
As a firm believer of fleet recapitalization, the Nigerian Navy recently boosted its fleet by inaugurating six warships including the third indigenously constructed Seaward Defence Boat (SDB) III, NNS OJI, built by the Nigerian Navy.
Aside the 100 epenal and suncraft boats, as well as an helicopter for its air wing, President Muhammadu Buhari also unveiled the acquired Inshore Patrol Craft (IPC), Fast Patrol Boats (FPB) including NNS LANA, KANO, IKENNE, ABA, SOKOTO and OSUN.
It is worthy to mention that some of the platforms were built locally. For example, NNS Oji, which was built by engineers of the Nigerian Navy, is the third of its series to be indigenously built at the Naval Dockyard Limited after NNS Adoni and NNS Karaduwa were built in 2016.
The Nigerian Navy must be commended for maintaining a steady course in its drive for local content development, which is in tandem with the philosophy of the federal government of Nigeria.
No doubt, the fabrication and construction of indigenous shipbuilding efforts of the service has enhanced the presence of personnel to provide adequate sea security within the nation’s maritime domain.
It is in the light of the above that the Nigerian Navy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, NASENI, to begin a sustained collaboration that would see the two organisations among other projects, provide the capacity for the construction of oil tankers, fishing vessels for the development of the oil and gas industry.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, the CNS said, “This indigenous shipbuilding efforts has enhanced presence of the Nigerian Navy at sea, which led to significant reduction of piracy incidents culminating in delisting Nigeria from International Maritime Bureau list of piracy prone countries.
“This has ultimately reduced high insurance premium (known as war risk premium), which is usually factored into shipping cost due to the prevalence of piracy incidences”.
With his zeal, Nigeria’s naval chief is consolidating the country’s marine force as a formidable regional power in the Gulf of Guinea and the African continent.