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Obangame Express 2023: Admiral Gambo supports sustained collaborative efforts against maritime security threats in GoG

Multinational maritime domain security exercise code-named Obangame Express 2023 and involving navies of countries within the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) countries, officially came to a close on Friday, 3 February 2023.

Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, officially declared the exercise which is in its 13th year, closed in Lagos.

Giving his remark, Admiral Gambo said that collaborations such as was done in this exercise, remained important to sustain strong forces against all manner of security threats at sea.

He emphasised that no single navy or coast guard would take on the responsibility of policing the vast waters of the region and record the kind of success that is being achieved and sustained through the joint efforts of the multinational navies.

“The magnitude of most maritime states and their interconnectedness coupled with the fact that they provide a diversity of impact, demands that we keep coming together to fashion out collaborative and framed responses.

“I am bold to say that no single navy or coast guard can do it alone. It is hoped that lessons from this exercise will be keyed into collaborative action and level of support for our preparedness, to successfully curb maritime environment challenges in the ever-changing environment in the Gulf of Guinea and beyond,” he said.

A cross section of participants during the debriefing.

The exercise which is under the watch of the United States Africa Command was established in 2010 to enhance security in the Gulf of Guinea through joint security sea exercises.

The exercise involved simulations and drills covering areas of threats such as a piracy attacks, human trafficking, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing), illegal bunkering, illegal arms dealing, and trafficking in drugs among others.

As scheduled, the week-long sea exercise which involved 32 countries ended on 3 February, with all participants in the exercise converging at the Naval Dockyard harbour, Lagos, from where they had set sail on the voyage.

Appreciating all the participants of the exercise and personalities who graced the closing ceremony, Admiral Gambo declared Obangame Express 2023 ended.

Satisfied with the observations reported, Gambo said the lessons learned would serve as foundations and stepping stones to higher grounds in the bid to sustain security in the GoG area.

He said: “The observations are apt, and relevant. Definitely, lessons are learnt. I want to appreciate our team for a good job and the level of their preparedness as observed. This affirms that the objectives of the exercise are achieved and therefore declares the exercise a success and commendable.”

He commended the commitment of the navies and United States Coast Guards for sustaining the maritime architecture in the Gulf of Guinea, and sustaining capacity through the facilities in the training centre in Lagos.

He particularly thanked the U.S. and Spain for dispatching ships for the exercise, and appreciated officers and men of the Nigerian Navy too.

Earlier, the Flag Officer Commanding the Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral YB Wambai, said that exercise Obangeme 2023 was independently monitored by chief observers for the Naval Doctrine Command of the Nigerian Navy that were onboard the vessels, and the exercise control group comprising of personnel from the Gulf of Guinea nations, as well as other partner nations that where indicated in the control group in the Naval Dockyard.

“The exercise was independently monitored by a team of observers from the naval doctrine command of the Nigerian navy who were onboard, and the exercise control group comprising personnel from the gulf of guinea nations as well as other partner nations that were located in the control room here in the naval dockyard.

“The debrief would afford us the opportunity to understand how the task group fared at sea in terms of accomplishment of the exercise , it will also give us the needed guidance in terms of future exercises,” Wambai said.

Commentary on the exercise confirmed that the task group was involved in various exercises across the spectrum of maritime threats that are encountered constantly at sea. These exercises were conducted in line with the extant conventions and procedures with a view to achieving set goals objectives.

The task group carried out exercise against human trafficking, illegal unreported unregulated fishing (IUU fishing), illegal oil bunkering, communication exercises, simulated fire fighting, arms and drug smuggling, and anti-piracy exercises, until all participating ships returned to harbour for the evaluation of the week-long sea exercise.

Part of observation report described a scenario created to check human trafficking and the training objectives included the test for effective communication with the western regional control centre for ‘Falcon Eye’, test information and intelligence sharing between regional control centres and ships at sea, test for search and determine how to make judgement, and test collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Immigration Service, Nigeria Police Force and the Interpol.

The following nations participated in the exercise; Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, France, Gabon, The Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Italy, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo, and the United States. Also participating will be the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

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