This Day (Lagos)

14 September 2007

Nigeria: Country Moves to Halt U.S. Military

Gulf of Guinea — The Federal Government has begun moves to frustrate the plan by the United States to establish a military base in the Gulf of Guinea.

The oil-rich gulf is bordered by Nigeria, Angola, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe

US has been desperately wooing some countries in the West Africa sub-region to allow her establish a military base to protect the strategic gulf for sometime now.

The move, according to US, is to protect the area from alleged external aggressions but with America now looking in the direction of Africa for her energy needs given the instability in the Middle-east, many analysts say the move is to protect her oil interests. .

Defence sources, however, told THISDAY last night in Abuja that the Federal Government was already discussing with heads of government of the African Union and leaders of the sub-regional body, the Economic Community of West African State, on how to block any move by US to establish a base in the gulf.

"Nigeria is not taking the issue lightly at all and the government is not going to allow the US establish any military base anywhere in the ECOWAS region. The interest of the US government in the Gulf of Guinea has reinforced the commitment of the government to intensify its efforts at providing the needed security in the sub-region," the source said.

It was learnt that the Federal Government was worried by the terror alert raised by the US authorities last week and saw it as a ploy to label Nigeria and countries in the sub region as unsafe in order to get the opportunity to create a military base in the region.

As a first step to checkmate that plan, the FG has vowed to frustrate the campaign by the US to establish a base in the gulf.

"The government of this country is not ready for any blackmail. What they cannot get through the back doors they want to get through blackmail. We are not going to succumb to that game," the source said.

THISDAY also learnt that the Defence Headquarters has concluded plans to visit Pentagon, in Washington, to further discuss the issue with the US government.

"In a few weeks from now, some top military personnel will be in the US to present papers on the plans by the African Union to establish an African Command, which will be charged with the responsibility of providing the needed security in the continent.

"We really want to let the US and other countries of the world know that we are capable of protecting the resources within our continent. Nigeria is one country that will continue to move against any plans by the US government to establish a military base in our sub-region. We cannot afford to allow them do that, otherwise we will be finished as military," he said.

Last month, a delegation of the Government of Equatorial Guinea had visited Nigeria and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nigerian Navy in the area of security, training and equipment.

Currently, US has some presence in the Gulf of Guinea and its forces have been engaging in frequent patrol of the gulf.

However, US interest in the gulf has been increasing amid rising oil exploration in the region.

It was being alleged that West African Navy fleet lacks the capacity to protect oil platforms in the gulf.

As far back as June last year, US explained that its presence in the Gulf of Guinea was aimed at protecting an area regarded as one of the richest sources of hydrocarbons in the world from international criminals.

"We hear a series of stories for our presence in the Gulf of Guinea, but I want to say that we are concerned for Nigeria and we want to help her protect the region from the hands of maritime criminals," said the Commander of US Naval Forces in Europe and Commander of the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, Admiral Henry Ulrich.

"In all parts of the world, the US and any good nation want a safe coast for those countries who are supplying energy, and that is why we are often there. So there is nothing to fear for Nigeria," Ulrich said during a Seapower Africa Symposium in Abuja in June last year.

Ulrich had also disclosed that the US planned to increase its naval presence in the Gulf of Guinea in order to ensure maritime safety in the region.

US Naval official said it was necessary to secure the area from international criminals, including terrorists, sea pirates and smugglers.

The gulf's oil and gas deposit is put in the region of 10 billion barrels.

Statistics show that as of 2004, Africa as a whole produced nearly nine million barrels of oil per day, with approximately 4.7 million barrels per day coming from West Africa.

Also, African oil production accounted for approximately 11 percent of the world's oil supply, while the continent supplied approximately 18 per cent of the US net oil imports.

Both Nigeria and Angola were among the top 10 suppliers of oil to the US.

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