By PHILIP NWOSU
The Nigerian Navy will tomorrow commence a major sea manoeuver geared towards cleaning the country’s territorial waters of sea pirates and oil thieves in the Port Harcourt area of Rivers State.
The Navy said eight of its combat ships, six gunboats and three helicopters would be deployed in waters around the Bight of Benin, in search of sea criminals and also to test the capability of ships and personnel of the force in carrying out the directives of President Goodluck Jonathan on the policing of the country’s territorial waters.
The Chief of Training and Operations of the Navy, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogbor, told Saturday Sun that a Nigerian Air Force Maritime Patrol aircraft will also participate in the operations that will include two Nigerian Army sections. A Nigerian Navy information brief signed by Admiral Ogbor said the exercise is in pursuance of President Jonathan’s mandate for the Nigerian Navy to do all it can to stamp out the prevalence of illegal maritime activities, particularly, crude oil theft, illegal bunkering and piracy in the Niger Delta area.
He said that the sea manoeuver, which is code named, “Exercise Farafuta,” is aimed at intensifying on- going naval operations in the Niger Delta area with emphasis at Bonny-Akassa, Escravos area and area alleged to be notorious for crude oil theft. Admiral Ogbor said the synergy of this accomplishment will ensure full mission accomplishment across the threat spectrum, with specific emphasis to immediately end all criminal activities in the Niger Delta region.
The force had, in the past, against the backdrop of rising insecurity in the Niger Delta and its resolve to fulfill part of its responsibility in the security of the Gulf of Guinea, embarked on series of naval exercises in the Bight of Bonny to test its preparedness to fully secure the area. The Bight of Bonny is the major strategic gateway for Nigeria’s crude oil and natural gas.
The area gives access to over 500 oil fields and the largest crude oil export terminals. Apart from the oil fields, with their numerous exploitation and storage platforms, the Bight of Bonny is the only access route to Nigeria’s huge natural gas reserves and the gigantic industrial complexes that have been constructed to store and export the gas.