The Western Naval Command recently played host to Italian and French Navies in Lagos. Chiemelie Ezeobi reports that beyond the diplomatic aspect of the port calls, it was targeted at curbing maritime illegality in the Gulf of Guinea waters
When navies embark on port calls, it does two things- strengthens maritime security partnership and also oils the diplomatic/ bilateral relationship between the visitor and host nation.
Recently, these two objectives were achieved when the Italian and French Navies respectively visited the Western Naval Command (WNC) of the Nigerian Navy (NN) in Apapa, Lagos.
During the visit, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), WNC, Rear Admiral Jason Gbassa, said both navies would be collaborating with the NN to curb piracy in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) waters.
For the Italian Navy that first paid a courtesy call, the navy held a two-day exercise targeted at addressing the issues of maritime crime, drug trafficking, and human trafficking among others with the deployment of air and water assets.
Prior to the exercise, the FOC received the Italian delegation from the Italian Naval Ship ANTONIO MARCEGLIA, a Multi European Frigate deployed on maritime interdiction mission in the GoG.
On the exercise the FOC said "Piracy, sea robbery and all forms of criminalities on the waterways are a threat to international trade, a threat to relations between nations and even a threat to life. It is in recognition of this that the Nigerian Navy, knowing the global nature and effect of this criminalities, collaborates with foreign allies to strategise in curbing such criminalities.
"The history between our countries has been cordial and strong particularly in security within the context of the subregion and the Gulf of Guinea and your presence in Nigeria cannot be denied. The issues we have around the Gulf of Guinea in the negative sense constitutes a threat to international trade and the regional peace.
We are glad to have the Italian Navy and French Navy collaborate with us to help us attend to and resolve these issues."
He said the exercise will give the three navies insight about providing security within the maritime domain and particularly address the disturbing incidence of piracy and sea robbery within the maritime space.
"We have a present concern in the Gulf of Guinea which if not well addressed, will affect your own economic interest in this part of the world.
All efforts will be made to make sure that the criminalities in our waterways is reduced to the barest minimum and eventually eradicated."
Hoping for more of such visits in the future, he said it trainings of personnel between the navies for the benefit of the participating nations, adding that "we hope that the relations we have established particularly in the area of security where our militaries train together from the tactical level to the operational level be sustained".
Reiterating, the Italian Consul General to Nigeria, Mr Maurizio Busanelli said the exercise was important because it would help to save lives and protect global trade growth.
For the French Navy on the other hand, they visited with French Naval Ship Commandant DUCUING, a 93-metre long vessel with a crew of 105 and powerful intervention needs.
French Consul General to Nigeria, Mrs Laurence Monmayrant also reiterated that the common goal was to fight against insecurity and criminal activities in the Gulf of Guinea in order to secure international trade on such a major maritime route.
She said: "For over 30 years, the French Navy has been present on the African West coast as part of the Yaoundé Convention.
"Since 2013, the Yaoundé Convention has moved on to a new dimension to deter criminal activities encountered in this maritime region such as illegal fishing, drug trafficking, armed trafficking and even human trafficking.
"This exercise includes different operations of interception of pirates, tracking of smugglers, rescue actions and even diving among other operations"