By Okosun Dennis
The President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari on Monday commissioned two naval warships and a new helicopter procured to boost naval fleets and secure the maritime domain.
In a similar breath, he unveiled National Maritime Strategy which seeks to bring all stakeholders in the maritime domain together to form a formidable alliance with a view to securing the maritime environment.
The new helicopter NN410 is manufactured in Italy, while the two warships: NNS KADA, which is a Landing Ship Transport, built in Sharjah United Arab Emirates, and NNS IBENO, donated by the Peoples’s Republic of China.
The unveiling and inauguration took place at the Naval Dockyard Jetty, Victoria Island, and at the Lagos Channel during the 2023 Presidential Fleet Review (PFR) in honour of the President.
PFR was an event that showcased 16 naval ships which were assembled and reviewed by the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces including ships and delegates from other friendly navies.
In his remarks, President Buhari applauded Nigerian Navy’s efforts in indigenous shipbuilding, which he added, is yielding positive results in line with the nation’s local content development plan. He stressed that such efforts by the naval Engineers were wholly responsible for the building of three Seaward Defence Boats namely NNS ANDONI, NNS KARADUWA, and NNS OJI.
He expressed joy in reviewing the Nigerian Navy Fleet which paraded different types and classes of ships as well as helicopters symbolizing the nation’s maritime power and its preparedness to carry out the Navy’s constitutional roles.
There were combat displays and maneuvering staged by elements of the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service and a combination of the air assets from the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Air Force.
Adding that his expectation of the navy is to translate, and see that it has the capability to dominate Nigeria’s maritime environment and secure the vast resources that would galvanize the socio-economic development of the country, commended the invaluable contributions of the force to securing the maritime domain.
President Buhari, who is formally handing over to a new administration next week, emphasized that since the inception of his administration eight years ago, about 20 capital ships have been acquired for the Nigerian Navy which included Offshore Patrol Vessels, Landing Ship Transport, Hydrographic Survey Vessels, Seaward Defence Boats and Helicopters as well as over 300 Inshore Patrol Vessels and Assault Craft.
He further explained that the effective use of these platforms have successfully led to the fight against resource theft, counter-drug operations, and piracy, which has reduced significantly the delisting of Nigeria from the list of piracy-prone countries by the International Maritime Bureau in March 2022.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Awwul Zubairu Gambo lauded the uniqueness of the 2023 PFR for the President, which provided unprecedented support to the Nigerian Navy in terms of fleet recapitalization, infrastructural development, and personnel welfare which has boosted morale and fighting efficiency.
“The Review is designed to mark the culmination of Mr. President’s eight years in office. The peculiar feature of this Review is the commissioning of a Landing Ship Transport, an Inshore Patrol Craft, and one Augusta Westland Grand New light utility helicopter, all of which form part of ships to be reviewed along Lagos Channel.
“Also included in this formation are the Ghanaian Navy Ship, GNS BLIKA, and Italian Navy Ship, NAVE BORSINI.”
Highpoint of the Presidential Fleet Review was the ringing of the bell for the commencement of the Presidential Fleet Review. It is also used to indicate time and perform various naval functions such as the PFR. It was rang eight times by the Commander-In-Chief as the Reviewing Officer to signify the commencement of the review.
As customary in honour of the President, there were 21 Gun salutes by the Nigerian Army Artillery.
Present were the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (retd); Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, Service Chiefs, and the Inspector General of Police, who was represented by AIG Yekini Ayoku.
Others were former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (retd), and doyen of industries, Defence Attaches of several countries, former Chiefs of Naval Staff, General Officer Commanding, Air Officer Commanding, Flag Officer Commanding, and other dignitaries.