Nigerian Navy: Regaining lost grounds, setting new operational standards

On Tuesday, October 19, 2021, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, undertook an operational visit to the Naval Base Lake Chad in Baga, Borno state. JINRIN BABA NDACE examines the impact of the visit on the overall counter-insurgency operations in the North-east.

The maritime component of the Nigerian Armed Forces has been vital to the success of the various operations through professional involvement of its officers and ratings that have fought alongside their colleagues in the army, air force, police, and civil defence, DSS as well as the civilian Joint Task Force in the ongoing counter-insurgency operations in the North-east.

Unknown to most citizens, the Nigerian Navy is subsumed in various joint operations alongside the army and air force. In addition to naval personnel who trained as Special Forces in Belarus before induction into the theatre of operations in the Northeast, Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service (SBS) similar to the United Kingdom Royal Navy Special Boat Service has also been part of the various operations in the North-east.

Naval base at Lake Chad

Similarly, the maritime component has been part of theatre headquarters of operations. To fully consolidate the presence of the Nigerian Navy, the service established a naval base at Lake Chad with headquarters in Baga to take charge of the territorial waters of Nigerian territory.

Hence, the last 12 years of the counter-insurgency operations have witnessed a rapid increase in the number of Nigerian Navy personnel which culminated in the establishment of Naval Base Lake Chad.

Since its establishment in 2016, the naval personnel which included the Special Boat Service, the Nigerian Navy Special Forces have worked closely with other security agencies and MultiNational Joint Task Force in securing the general area from Boko Haram and ISWAP.

Because of the strategic importance of Lake Chad Basin, Boko Haram and  ISWAP have made several attempts to dislodge military locations including the naval base in Baga. The naval personnel retreated and had to make a tactical withdrawal from their base after a series of attacks in 2018. 

While the Nigerian Navy continued to operate in the North-east, it was only recently that the Naval Base Lake Chad was relocated back to Baga by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo.

The re-establishment of the naval base which is being commended by defence and security experts is already yielding positive results. Recently, the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service SBS attached to the Naval Base Lake Chad, personnel of 403 Brigade Amphibious Nigerian Army, other security agencies and Civilian Joint Task Force conducted successful operations in Baga on the shore of Lake Chad Basin. The operation which lasted four days, covered Federal College of Freshwater Fisheries Technology (FCFFT) Dogo Baga, Tangon Guava, Kwatan Gaba and Kwatan Kuyet, was successfully executed and resulted in the recovery of a box of 40mm Automatic Grenade Launcher (AGL) balls.

The recent operational visit of the Chief of Naval staff to Baga was, therefore, to further consolidate on the gains made so far and also regain lost grounds. The Lake Chad Basin is a viable economic base of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon which has been under constant attack by Boko Haram and ISWAP.

Vision, mission

In line with his vision and mission, and in furtherance of the presidential directive to secure the Lake Chad basin and allow economic activities return to various communities in the area, the Chief of Naval Staff visited Baga for on-the-spot assessment of the location and to interact with officers and ratings in the frontline.

Accompanied by the Chief of Training and Operations, Rear Admiral Abraham Adaji, Chief of Logistics, Rear Admiral Mohammed Nagenu, Commander, Multi-National Joint Task Force commander, Major General AK Ibrahim, Theatre Commander, Operation Hadin Kai, Major General CG Musa, Provost Marshal Nigerian Navy, Commodore Kennedy Ezete, Director, Naval Intelligence, Commodore M Katagum, Director Information, Nigeria Navy, Commodore Suleiman Dahun and Commander, Maritime Component, Operation Hadin Kai, Commodore RM Shammah; the naval chief visited the Fish Dam, Federal College of Freshwater Fisheries Technology and also interacted with Baga community.

On ground to receive the Naval Chief were the Commander Naval Base Lake Chad, Commodore AD Bingel, Commander, Sector 3, Operation Hadin Kai/MNJTF, Brigadier General GM Mutkut, Commander, Amphibious Brigade, Brigadier General O Bassey,  Brigade Commander, 19 Brigade, Baga, officers and men of the MNJTF and Operation Hadin Kai.

CNS’ charge

In his address, Vice Admiral Gambo urged officers and ratings of the Naval Base Lake Chad to be extra vigilant and alert at various duty posts at all times in order to neutralise insurgents and other criminal elements in their area of responsibility as well as avoid any act/conduct that could compromise their safety and undermine the security of the base.

He reminded the personnel of his vision and mission statements and urged them to work towards realising the vision in line with the directive of the President’s promise to end insecurity in Nigeria.

“My vision is to leverage on factors of national location, technology, training, team work and synergy to re-energize the Nigerian Navy and enhance her as a well- motivated and ready naval force in the discharge of her constitutional mandate and other assigned tasks in fulfillment of national security objectives.”

Admiral Gambo said the relocation of Naval Base Lake Chad to Baga constitutes a key operational objective in the efforts being made to end the insurgency in the North-east.

“The military high command in general and the Nigeria Navy in particular recognise the critical role of the Naval Base Lake Chad. We are committed to ensuring that the Naval Base continues to carry out its operational mandate and indeed make the Nigerian Navy proud,” he said.

The CNS commended the personnel at the base for their good conduct and urged them to maintain the standard. He warned them to avoid substance/drug abuse which is capable of compromising their health and operational effectiveness and stressed that the Nigerian Navy will hand over any personnel found wanting to the NDLEA or appropriate government agency.

“I commend the Commander and ratings of the Naval Base Lake Chad for your professional conduct and for successfully returning to Baga. Your effort is very necessary for the overall success of the entire operations in the Northeast. I urge you to maintain the momentum and sustain the operational tempo in collaboration and liaison with sister services and other security agencies within the operational theatre so that desired results can be achieved.”

“You must continue to make the Nigerian Navy proud. You must ensure that you leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the Naval Base Lake Chad delivers on its operational mandate.”

On welfare of personnel, the CNS said he was aware of the needs of personnel on operational deployment and assured them of his commitment to addressing their welfare.

“Welfare of personnel remains my cardinal priority as the Chief of Naval Staff, especially for officers and ratings that are on operational deployment. I have taken note of your needs and assure you that they will be addressed.”

He emphasised the need for cooperation and synergy of efforts, insisting that the prevailing national security challenges demand robust synergy of effort by the armed forces, Nigerian Police and other security agencies as well as all stakeholders. He said that the peculiar nature of the North East theatre of operation necessitated the participation of troops from neigbouring countries under the Multi-National Joint Task Force, MNJTF which required cooperation, synergy, cordial working relationship of all components and contingents of the participating countries in the theatre in the interest of national and regional security which is to defeat the common enemy of terrorism and insurgency.

“No service or security agency can do it alone. I therefore urge you to ensure synergy and cordial working relationships with other components and contingents operating in the theatre in the interest of national security. This cooperation is required to defeat the common enemy.”

He restated the commitment of the Nigerian Navy in collaboration with other services to ensure that the New Year is ushered in with a high degree of economic activities in the Lake Chad Basin, and promised provision of operational assets/logistics to enable the Naval Base function effectively.

“I am aware of the special nature of the operating environment of the naval base. I will ensure that all necessary infrastructure and assets are provided. I am also happy to inform you that the European Union proposed support which would further bolster the operational status of the Base.”

Robust military-civilian relations

The CNS also charged the commanders to build a robust civil-military relations that will help in winning the hearts and minds of the communities by carrying out corporate social responsibility activities such as provision of boreholes among others.

“It is important to establish a very cordial relationship with the host communities. I therefore want the Naval Base as well as other services and security agencies to build robust civil military relations through conduct of corporate social responsibility in the host communities.”

In their separate remarks, the commander, Multi-National Joint Task Force, Major General AK Ibrahim and Theatre Commander, Operation Hadin Kai, Major General CG Musa, commended the Chief of the Naval Staff for taking an operational tour to Baga on a public holiday adding that the visit boosted the morale of the troops. They assured the naval chief of their commitment to work with the naval component towards achieving the desired result of securing the Lake Chad Basin.

In his remarks, the Commander, Naval Base Lake Chad,

Commodore Alexander Bingel expressed delight over the visit of the Chief of Naval Staff, noting that it was the first of its kind.

“We are very happy and delighted to have you in our midst  today in  in person, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo . I must confess that this is the first time that the Chief of Naval Staff will visit both the fish dam and the other locations in Baga. Sir, I must say we are highly honoured,” he said.

While interacting with the Baga community, the naval chief assured them of safety and security in the environment and urged them to support security agencies in securing their communities.

The Chief of Naval Staff also promised that the Nigerian Navy would provide borehole, sport facilities and other social amenities to the community in order to build a robust civil military relationship.

“The Nigerian Navy has returned to Baga, We will continue to work together with the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Multi- National Joint Task Force  and Civilian Joint Task Force to ensure security of lives and property. We will secure the fish dam. We want all of you to return to your means of livelihood-farming and fishing. We want you to support and cooperate with the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies.”

Traditional ruler’s appreciation, gov’s commendation

Speaking on behalf of the community, the head of Baga fish market, Malam Babagana thanked the Chief of Naval Staff for ensuring the return of the Naval Base Lake Chad to Baga.

“We are very happy with the visit of the Chief of Naval Staff and the assurance he gave us on the safety of our environment. We commend the Nigerian Navy and all security agencies making sacrifices to keep our communities safe for us. We are eager to return to our means of livelihood which is fishing and farming.”

During his courtesy call on the Borno state governor, Prof. Babagana Umarah Zulum, the CNS told the governor of the return of the Naval Base Lake Chad to Baga and renewed effort by the Nigerian Navy, other security agencies as well as Civilian Joint Task Force to secure the area in order to allow full  return of economic and commercial activities especially fishing and farming in the Lake Chad Basin.

“We are committed to ensuring that full economic and commercial activities return to Baga. I have given the naval personnel a fresh order on the need for them to be extra vigilant and alert at all times. I have also increased the allowance of the civilian JTF that have been working closely with the security agencies, so as to boost their morale. ”

He implored more collaboration between the state government and all security agencies. Vice Admiral Gambo requested the upgrade of Borno state-owned General Hospital to ease the pressure on the Naval Clinic in Baga. He commended the governor for his commitment, resilience and determination towards bringing lasting peace to the state.

In his remarks, Governor Babagana Zulum commended the navy chief for ensuring the return of Naval Base to Baga and promised to compliment the efforts of the Nigerian Navy.

Prof. Zulum who emphasised the importance of the maritime component to the overall success of counter insurgency operations in the Northeast, noted that the return of Naval Base marked a new beginning and new lease of life to the people who are eager to return to their means of livelihood as fishermen and farmers.

The governor called for collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, other services as well as security agencies towards ending the menace of insurgency and terrorism in the north east.

The governor commended the Nigerian Armed Forces, Multi- National Joint Task Force, other security agencies and Civilian Joint Task Force for their commitment to bringing peace and stability to the North-east.