Buhari at Navy’s fleet review, lauds sector for operational efficiency

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Ahead of President Muhammadu Buhari’s exit from Aso Rock on May 29 after his eight- year tenure which began in 2015, the Nigerian Navy has received commendation from the president for a job well done. OGUNTADE ISMAILA reports.

The occasion was the fleet review and the commissioning of the Nigerian Navy ships and helicopters at Naval Dockyard Limited, Victoria Island, Lagos on Monday this week.

The theme of the review was, ‘Fleet Readiness for National Prosperity’.

Presidential commendation

Buhari commended the Navy for significantly adding value to the nation’s maritime activities and Blue Economy, pointing out that his administration’s effort in that regard deserves commendation from Nigerians.

According to him, I am pleased to state that the Nigerian Navy efforts in indigenous shipbuilding in line with the nation’s local content development plan is yielding positive result.

“Our naval engineers were wholly responsible for building three Seaward Defence Boats namely NNS Andoni, NNS Karaduwa, and NNS Oji. In December 2021, I equally performed foundation laying for the construction of two Seaward Defence Boats, which would be ready by 2024”.

He said that he has no doubt that the Nigerian Navy will soon commence construction of larger ships for itself and other navies in the region and beyond, adding that this achievement is a great pride to Nigeria and an impressive contribution to national development.

According to him, “The Nigerian Navy has put these vessels into effective use as evident in successes recorded in the fight against resource theft, counter drug operations and piracy. As you are aware, piracy reduced significantly over the past seven years, culminating in the delisting of Nigeria from the list of piracy prone countries by the International Maritime Bureau in March 2022.”

Buhari further said, “Furthermore, the application of technology to secure the maritime domain has supported intelligence and driven the deployment of these ships. I will particularly commend the diligent arraignment and persecution of MT Heroic Idun, sequel to the detection and arrest for attempting to load crude oil offshore Bonny in August 2022 without authorisation amongst others. This successful conviction further confirms the navy’s resolve to protect resources for economic prosperity.”

He said he was aware that the Nigerian Navy regularly collaborates with navies from partner nations to boost synergy in addressing illegalities within the Gulf of Guinea, especially during joint exercises such as Exercise Obangame Express, Exercise Grand Africa Nemo and Exercise Flintlock to mention a few.

“These exercises have enhanced Nigerian Navy’s interoperability and readiness for Maritime Security Operations. I want to sincerely appreciate heads of navies and coast guards as well as foreign allies for this synergy and cooperation. I sincerely thank you for honouring me and my country.”

On navy’s collaborative mechanisms, he commended the government and good people of Lagos state and other maritime stakeholders for the critical support given to the Nigerian Navy in conducting the fleet review saying, “Pertinently, more than half of Nigerian maritime trade pass through ports located in Lagos and as such continues to be a lifeline for the nation’s industry and economy. This strategic importance further underscores the necessity of cordial relations, while commending the Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral AZ Gambo for his effort.”

He expressed optimism that the incoming administration of President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu would sustain the current tempo of his administration in giving the Nigerian Navy necessary support to effectively carry out its assigned tasks.

Appreciation from CNS

Meanwhile, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral AZ Gambo, in his address at the occasion said the occasion of the Fleet Review was another significant milestone in the history of the Navy and the nation in general.

Gambo said the review was to honour Buhari in particular for supporting the Navy and to commission some critical naval facilities.

He said navy’s recapitalisation of facilities has enhanced its combat readiness and contributions to security and economy and further bolstered Nigerian Navy maritime security operations efforts.

Gambo Gamb pointed out that, “Mr president approved the acquisition of additional vessels as well as several air assets.

“Currently under construction are 2 by 76m High Endurance Offshore Patrol Vessels in Turkey, 3 by 45m Fast Patrol Boats in France and 2 by Augusta Westland helicopters amongst others.

“Undoubtedly, the transformation of the Nigerian Navy within the eight years of Mr President’s tenure in office has repositioned the Navy for better service delivery and actualisation of its constitutional mandate. Hence, the theme of this fleet review – ‘Fleet Readiness for National Prosperity’. In this regard, permit me to give a brief highlight of the platforms to be commissioned today. NNS KADA, a Landing Ship Transport, was built by Messrs Damen at the Sharjah Port, United Arab Emirates. The ship arrived Nigeria on 22 May 22 and will serve as a force multiplier towards projecting naval power as well as support non-kinetic operations. NNS Ibeno is a fast patrol craft, donated by the Peoples Republic of China. The ship will be deployed for surveillance and patrol duties within our waters and the region. The NN Helicopter, NN410, first of three to be delivered, which arrived in January this year would increase reaction time of the fleet to incidences at sea and aid conduct of Search and Rescue Operations amongst others.

“The induction of these platforms into the NN Fleet will lead to further decline in maritime crimes thereby boosting socio-economic activities within the Nigerian Maritime Environment.

“Finally, as the administration draws the curtain on 29 May 2023, let me once again sincerely thank our amiable President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces for his unwavering commitment and tremendous support towards maintaining a well-equipped navy that Nigerians can be proud of. Sir, we wish you good health and success in your future endeavours. May I also use this opportunity to acknowledge support of our friendly navies for the synergy and cooperation in tackling maritime security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea in line with the Yaoundé Accord. Your presence in our midst today is a testament to this cooperation. Our profound gratitude also goes to everyone that has contributed in one way or the other to making this event a reality. I sincerely appreciate your efforts and contributions and may the Almighty God bless and reward you accordingly.” Gambo stated.

Magashi corroborates CNS

During the Maritime Discourse which is one of the key events at the 2023 Presidential Fleet Review in honouring the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister of Defence, Maj General Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd) charged the Nigerian Navy (NN) to speed up its operational mode in order to enhance efficiency in the sector.

As the special guest, the minister, expressed happiness that the navy has played a key role in sustaining democracy for the past 24 years. He therefore urged the navy to continue to build a virile, forward-looking and responsible naval force that will be capable of safeguarding the nation’s maritime environment.

He said he agreed with the Chief of Naval Staff who lauded Buhari for providing the catalyst for the Nigerian Navy to function effectively.
Magashi said he was optimistic that the discourse would immensely contribute to all facets of our fleet’s readiness for enhanced national prosperity.

According to him, “In this regard, you will agree with me that it is imperative that the nation builds a virile, forward- looking and responsive naval force that would be capable of safeguarding the nation’s maritime environment where die-hard criminals are resolute on carrying out their nefarious activities with detrimental effect on the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy.

“Consequently, I cannot agree less with the CNS when he spoke of Mr President providing the catalyst for the Nigerian Navy to function effectively. I also agree with the CNS that the complementary theme of the Man, Machine and Process, mirrors the sub-topics of the main theme for the Presidential Fleet Review: ‘Fleet Readiness for National Prosperity’ and sets the tone for this Maritime Discourse.”