By Vera Anyagafu
The Nigerian Navy, US Africa Command senior leaders and representatives of maritime forces from the Gulf of Guinea, Europe, North and South America, as well as other regional and international organizations, today, in Lagos, assembled to grace the opening ceremony of the 2019 Obangame Express.
Obangame Express, part of a comprehensive strategy by US Africa Command and US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, is expected to provide collaborative opportunities among African forces and international partners that address maritime security concerns.
Giving welcoming remarks at the opening ceremony of Obangame Express , which is now in its ninth year and has become an annual multinational maritime exercise designed to improve cooperation among the participating nations in order to increase maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea, both Nigeria’s Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, and United States Consul General, John Bray, noted that Obangame Exercise has grown in leaps and bounds, both in complexity and in accomplishment.
Consul General Bray, remarked that the efforts by regional navies to work together in the spirit of the Yaounde Code of Conduct which is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, information-sharing practices, and tactical interdiction expertise to enhance the collective capabilities of Gulf of Guinea and West African nations to counter sea-based illicit activity, have been noted by the US government.
Bray added that, “The Maritime Domain Awareness Training School in Apapa is one of the most evident examples of our enduring partnership. This school will be a regional center of excellence in the area of maritime domain awareness where neighboring countries will be trained.”
Also delivering her remarks, Director, Directorate of Intelligence, US Africa Command, Rear Admiral Heidi Berg, who lauded the commitment of the 33 nations scheduled to participate in this year’s exercise stated that, Illicit maritime activities such as illegal fishing, trafficking of weapons, narcotics and people, as well as the ongoing threat of piracy, undermine the rule of law, food security, and economic development in the region.
She however expressed that, “This exercise is a clear demonstration of the United States’ dedication to combat these illicit activities and help our partners in the Gulf of Guinea to provide security for their resources, their economy, and their people”, adding that, the Obangame Express 2019 will make the region a safe place for maritime commerce and ultimately help increase prosperity of the region.”
As part of the events to open the 2019 Obangame Express, which derives the name ‘Obangame_’ from the Fang language of southern Cameroon and other parts of Central Africa, meaning, _’togetherness’, the Nigerian Navy will host the 2019 exercise from March 14 to 22, 2019.
However, Consul General Bray and Vice Admiral Ibas, also commissioned the Nigerian Navy’s Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) Training School in Apapa.
The training school was built by the Nigerian Navy and equipped by the United States Navy.