Hope is rising for the Nigerian military in its war against oil theft and other criminal activities in the creeks and high seas. Special forces specialising in fighting maritime criminals arrived from United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), The Netherlands and Spain to train Nigerian troops and those of six other countries in the sub-region.
The chief of defence staff, Admiral Ola Ibrahim, who made this disclosure yesterday at the Defence Headquarters, said a 14-day training programme called "African Winds" began on Friday for 221 troops from Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Cameroun to be followed by four-day exercises.
Ibrahim said, "The African Winds programme has started with 14 days' training that will be conducted by Mobile Training Teams (MTTs) drawn from US, UK, and Netherland Marines followed by four days' exercises that will be conducted by units from the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Air Force and Special Forces from the US,UK, Netherland Marines and Spanish Special Forces.
"The training in Lagos, will be conducted at the Joint Maritime Security Training Centre (JMSTC), Navy Town, Ojo, from 4-14 October while the exercises will be conducted at Ibeshe Beach and the JMSTC/Naval Ordinance Depot (NOD) waterfront between 15 and 18 October. The exercises that will be conducted in Lagos will include amphibious raid, maritime counter-terrorism, vessel boarding stop and search in an opposed environment and hydrographic survey. A total of 221 Nigerian and foreign troops will participate in the training and exercises in Lagos area."
The CDS, who spoke through the chief of training and operation of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Babalola Ogunjimi, explained the need for the multinational training programme.
"The objective of African Winds is to enhance the capacity of African military forces to develop and improve their capacity to jointly plan and execute military operations in a maritime environment," he said. "It is expected that the African Winds training and exercises will further improve the capacity of the Nigerian armed forces to deal with the numerous security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea especially the stealing of crude oil and attacks on merchant ships."
According to him, the Netherland Maritime Forces is providing an amphibious logistic support ship, the HMNLS ROTHERDAM, to support the training and exercises. The ship which carries a total of 668 troops, four helicopters and six special boats called Landing Craft Utility (LCU) and Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP) is expected to be in Lagos from October 15-18. The programme would also be held in Calabar and Akwa Ibom State from October 21 to 24.
The ship was also said to be carrying many fast-raid Interception special forces craft used in inserting a small number of specially trained troops from sea to land particularly in creeks. The LCU is capable of carrying up to 120 fully equipped soldiers while the LCVP carries 35 special forces troops over a distance of 200 nautical miles.
"The Nigerian troops are drawn from the Army's 81 Division, the Navy's Special Boat Service, the Western Naval Command and the Hydrographer of the Navy. The Nigerian Air Force Special Operations Group and the 81 Air Maritime Group as well as the Naval Air Station will be providing air support for the exercises," he said.
US captures most wanted Al Qaeda leader
The United States military forces have captured Anas al Libi, a top al Qaeda figure wanted for two US embassy bombings, according to the Department of Defence. Anas al Libi, 49, who was on the FBI's "Most Wanted" list, was captured in his native Libya.
According to the Capitol Hill's report, he was indicted in the Southern District of New York, for his alleged involvement in the bombings of the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998. The US government had been offering $5 million for information leading to Libi's capture or conviction.
"On October 5, the Department of Defence, acting under military authorities, conducted an operation to apprehend longtime al Qaeda member Abu Anas al Libi in Libya," Pentagon spokesman George Little said. "He is currently lawfully detained under the law of war in a secure location outside of Libya.
"Wherever possible, our first priority is and always has been to apprehend terrorist suspects, and to preserve the opportunity to elicit valuable intelligence that can help us protect the American people."
According to Little, no American personnel or civilians on the ground were injured during the operation, but Libya's government is demanding an explanation for Libi's apprehension from the US government, calling it a kidnapping.
US special operations forces also launched a night raid against a Somali stronghold of the al Shabaab terror group early Saturday, days after the group's deadly attack on a Nairobi shopping mall.
Meanwhile, Libya's prime minister has called on Washington to explain a special forces raid on its territory, one of two by US commandos in Africa on Saturday. Ali Zeidan's office said he had asked for clarification and stressed Libya was "keen on prosecuting any Libyan citizen inside Libya".
Gwoza community laments insecurity
Residents of Gwoza local government area of Borno State have decried insecurity in the area as a result of Boko Haram insurgency.
The residents told the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that apart from setting schools ablaze, the sect members also attack passers-by on the road.
Residents who pleaded anonymity told the BBC that the sect members on Saturday put a road blockade along Kirawa village and were questioning the passers-by. "If they learnt that you come from Gwoza or Bama, it would be the end of your life. Presently, youth around the Gwoza and Bama communities were fleeing in phobia of the sect members attacking the communities," he added.
Several reports indicate that it was not the first time they were attacking Gwoza community; months ago the sect members stormed the community, freeing many prison inmates.