- Nigeria has a coastline of about 420nm and 200nm Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), translating to about 84,000 square nautical miles. Nigeria’s maritime area of interest includes the entire GoG which is
about 574,800 square nautical miles and spans a total coastline of
about 2,874nm. The rich endowment of Nigeria’s maritime domain, its networks of oil and gas installations and associated shipping are threatened by maritime crimes such as piracy, sea robbery, crude oil theft, illegal oil bunkering, Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, militancy and hostage taking.
- Nigeria relies on the sea for about 90 per cent of its import and export with oil being a major part of the trade. Hence, insecurity in Nigeria’s maritime domain becomes a major source of concern. In furtherance of its statutory mandate, the NN activated dedicated operations, in addition to routine operations. These operational activities are geared towards securing the maritime domain, a critical requirement for legitimate economic activities to thrive. Although these operations have contributed in enhancing maritime security with significant economic gains, it is imperative to sustain and possibly improve the level of security in order to optimize the potentials in the nation’s maritime domain.
- THREAT ASSESSMENT The maritime threats that have continued to significantly impact Nigeria’s maritime environment are piracy, smuggling, IUU fishing, crude oil theft and sea robbery. Piracy has continued to threaten maritime commerce in the GoG, particularly with the growing trend of kidnapping of ships’ crew for ransom. Although its menace has greatly reduced in Nigerian waters in 2019, it still negatively affects shipping costs and insurance premiums, which result in higher costs of goods, and shipping services. Smuggling is also another economic threat with perpetrators exploiting the vastness of Nigeria’s maritime environment to facilitate movement of contraband goods with ripple effects on local productivity. There is also the menace of IUU fishing which has adversely affected Nigeria’s economic prosperity, due to the gap in the capacity to monitor and control the maritime area. While the above threats have negatively impacted the optimization of the maritime potentials of the country, the most significant threat exists in the form of the crude oil theft, illegal refinery operation and kidnapping of crew for ransom. It is gratifying to note that, there has been significant reduction in crime in the nation’s maritime environment. This is largely attributable to a robust operational concept adopted by the NN.NIGERIAN NAVY EFFORTS AT SECURING THE MARITIME DOMAIN
- The NN has continued to focus on capacity development in order to improve maritime security in Nigerian waters, and the Gulf of Guinea (GoG). Capacities are deployed in consonance with the Total Spectrum Maritime Strategy (TSMS) which guides NN operational engagements. This concept of operation is based on a proactive layered response to 5 conflict spectrums characterised by distances to and from the coast. The 3 operations command of the NN are organised to carry out maritime security operations as required by the strategy. The NN fleet has an array of ships and air platforms which are regularly rejuvenated in order to achieve a balanced mix of capabilities to meet threats amongst other commitments in the GoG region.The NN scorecard for 2019 therefore will take a critical look at the various operational activities the NN conducted during the year under review. The operational engagements and activities of the NN in 2019 were geared towards securing the internal, territorial and EEZ of the maritime domain and contributing to counter insurgency and counter terrorism efforts on land. Highlights of NN operational engagements and activities are discussed subsequently.
Choke Point Management and Control Regime. In realization of the fact that most criminal activities at sea have their origins on land, the NN emplaced a Choke Point Management and Control Regime in March 2016. The Choke Point Regime involves deployment of armed personnel in houseboats in strategic locations within the creeks supported by patrol boats. So far, 10 houseboats otherwise known as Naval Security Stations (NSS) have been deployed in areas where crude oil theft and illegal refining activities are known to be prevalent. The Choke Point management and Control Regime has been instrumental to some of the successes recorded by the NN in 2019. For instance, a total of 70 large wooden boats were arrested for involvement in illegalities in 2019 and 463 large wooden boats were destroyed within the same period. In contrast, 31 large wooden boats were arrested in 2018 while 176 large wooden boats were destroyed within the same period. The increase in the number of wooden boats arrested in 2019 when compared to the records for 2018 is attributable to amongst other things, the improved efficiency of NSS. This is reflective in the improved production capacity as alluded to by the NNPC and IOCs, due to reduced down time associated with breaching of pipelines.
a Operation RIVER SWEEP. The activation of Operation RIVER SWEEP in early January 2017 was premised on the noticeable increasing activities of illegal refineries, particularly in Delta, Bayelsa and Rivers States. The Operation involves air surveillance, insertion of Special Forces by gunboats, pulling down of identified Illegal Refining Sites (IRS) with the use of swamp buggies as well as arrest/destruction of boats and barges found in such locations. In 2019, a total of 378 IRS were destroyed by the Operation resulting in the arrest of 62 speed boats and 275 suspects for involvement in either COT/illegal bunkering or smuggling of petroleum products. In contrast, 637 IRS were destroyed in 2018, with 104 speed boats and 340 suspects arrested. The observed reduction in the number of sites and arrests is attributable to the introduction of swamp buggy operations to completely destroy identified illegal refineries, thus making reactivation more difficult. Evidently, criminal elements have continued to threaten national strategic infrastructures, in spite of ongoing operations, massive sensitization and media campaigns. The NN has therefore resolved to sustain raids on criminal hideouts discovered during aerial surveillances by NN Helicopters.
b. Operations TSARE TEKU AND CALM WATERS. Op TSARE TEKU and CALM WATERS are dedicated naval operations activated in 2016 and 2019 respectively with the mandate to combat attacks on shipping and other illegal activities in designated areas. Op CALM WATERS focuses on backwater operations while TSARE TEKU is concerned with operations beyond the coastline. These operations are partly responsible for the reduction in reported incidents of sea robbery and piracy within Nigerian waters. According to records, from January to 16 December 2019, a total of 16 pirate attacks were reported with 6 successful and 10 unsuccessful. This is an improvement in comparison to the records for 2018 where a total of 34 pirate attacks were reported with 9 successful and 25 unsuccessful. To rid Nigerian waters of the threats posed by pirates as well as the attendant economic implications, the NN will continue to sustain and improve on current efforts in Op TSARE TEKU and CALM WATERS.
c. Operation SWIFT RESPONSE. The NN in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies activated Op SWIFT RESPONSE to curtail the increasing threat posed by smuggling in Nigeria. On its part, the NN inducted more patrol boats and vessels to bolster the on-going anti-smuggling and border security ops, in support of the FGN’s initiative. Specifically, the Ops resulted in the confiscation of about 10 trucks of 33,000 litres of petroleum products (valued at over N80 million) and seizure of about 14,056 bags of rice worth over N210 million from Aug 19 to date. To this end, the NN has contributed immensely to addressing menace of smuggling and other economic crimes within the country’s maritime environment.
d. Maritime Domain Awareness. The NN carries out round the clock surveillance of Nigeria’s maritime space using the Regional Maritime Awareness Capability (RMAC) and Falcon Eye facilities in addition to the use of vessels and helicopters. The NN has 24 Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) sensor sites across the Nigerian coastline in places such as Badagry, Lagos, Igbokoda, Forcados, Escravos, Formoso, Brass, Bonny, Iko and Ibaka. The command centres are located at Naval Headquarters and Headquarters of the 3 operations command. Additionally, the sensor sites ensure effective surveillance of all vessels in our territorial waters whether fitted with Automatic Identification System (AIS) or not. The sensors had contributed to more mission oriented patrols by the NN with attendant reduction in operational logistic costs. Using the NN MDA facilities, prompt reporting of attacks on vessels at sea led to foiling of several piracy incidents. Through the assistance of the MDA systems the NN arrested of 40 vessels including 17 fishing vessels for contravening Nigerian Fisheries Act and 25 barges in 2019 in contrast to the arrest of 34 vessels and 11 barges in 2018.
e. Enhancement of Response Capability. The response capability of the NN is also being enhanced through the acquisition of more platforms and maintenance of existing platforms to guarantee their availability. This is reflective in the total number of hours spent on patrol by NN ships in comparison to previous years. For instance, NN ships spent a total of 22,262 hours on patrol from Jan to 16 Dec 19 in comparison to 20,014 hours spent on patrol in the entire 2018. Notwithstanding, the NN still intend to increase operational capability by acquiring more vessels in order to enable it respond more effectively to contemporary and future threats. It is however essential to note that in spite of the FGN’s intervention in support of the various NN operational engagements across the country, the current level of funding for the NN is still far below what is required to sustain a balanced force capable of discharging its roles effectively. Consequently, there is the need for the government to do much more in terms of funding in view of the various ship rehabilitation/repair programmes, geared towards operational availability of capital ships to enable the Service meet its statutory responsibilities.
f. Collaboration with Other Maritime Nations and Stakeholders. In recognition of the centrality of collaboration for successful maritime security operation, the NN has continued to emplace measures to enhance collaboration and cooperation with other maritime nations and international maritime agencies. Accordingly, it holds regular international conferences and sea exercises with navies of other nations and major maritime stakeholders for the purpose of capacity building, intelligence and information sharing. These consultations have deepened stakeholders’ understanding of emerging security situations and the need to enhance collaboration. In 2019, the NN participated actively in EX OBANGAME EXPRESS, EX GRAND AFRICAN NEMO and Op JUNCTION RAIN. These exercises and Op which were aimed at fostering international/regional cooperation and synergy of efforts in tackling the myriad of challenges in Nigerian maritime environment were partly responsible for the foreign warships that visited Nigeria in 2019. The NN also had regular interactions with other maritime stakeholders, particularly maritime law enforcement agencies under the auspices of the Harmonized Standard Operating Procedure on Arrest, Detention and Prosecution of Vessels and Persons (HSOP– AD & P) in Nigeria’s Maritime Environment.
g. Flag Showing Visits. During the period under review, the NN participated in a number of flag showing visits. For instance, NNS EKULU and NNS KARADUWA participated in the 60th Anniversary celebrations of the Ghana Navy. These visits were in furtherance of NN diplomatic role. The participation of NNS KARADUWA a locally build SDB provided an opportunity to showcase Nigeria’s ship building capability.
PLATFORMS EXPECTED BEFORE END OF 2020
5. In 2019 the NN acquired some platform to boost her maritime security operations amongst which are 20 x Riverine Patrol Boats, 20 x Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) and 2 x 25 Man House Boats. The NN is also expecting some platforms from various manufacturers both within and outside the country to join her fleet to further boast her maritime security operations. The Platforms expected to join before the end of 2020 includes
a.1 x 60m Hydrographic Survey Ship from Ocea France.
b. 2 x 40m FPBs from Damen Shipyard Vietnam.
c. 1 x 43m SDB III from Naval Dockyard Limited Lagos.
d. 2 x 35m FPBs from Ocea France.
e. 1 x 24m FPB from Ocea France.
f. 4 x Manta Class Boats from Suncraft Malaysia.
g. 4 x 17C –Falcon Boats from Ocea France.
h. 5 x RHIBs enroute from Suncraft Malaysia.
j. 15 x RHIBs from Suncraft Malaysia.
k. 15 x 8.5m Riverine Patrol Boats from Epenal Group Nigeria Limited, Port Harcourt.
l. 9 x 8.5m Riverine Patrol Boats from SEWA, Port Harcourt.
m.1 x 25man house boat from Epenal Group Nigeria Limited, Port Harcourt.
n.1 x Leonardo Helicopter AW139 (Helicopter) from Italy.
6. The NN 2019 Scorecard highlighted the threats to legitimate activities in the nation’s maritime environment as well as the efforts of the NN in combating them. Thus, the NN remained committed towards improving security in the nation’s maritime area with notable achievements recorded so far. While noting the nexus between the successes and the availability of adequate resources, including international and regional collaboration, there are still some outstanding issues and capability gaps affecting NN operations. Interestingly the federal government under the leadership of President Muhammed Buhari has acquired some platforms for the NN while some are being expected by the end of 2020 to boast her maritime security operations.
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