Permit me to welcome you all to this joint press briefing on the ongoing Training Exercise called AFRICAN WINDS. AFRICAN WINDS is the nickname for a maritime capacity building training programme for the Armed Forces of Nigeria in conjunction with the Netherlands Maritime Forces under the auspices of the United States sponsored African Partnership Station. 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. The countries covered by the programme are: Morocco, Senegal, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Cameroun.
Under the programme, the Netherland Maritime Forces is providing an amphibious logistic support ship, the HMNLS ROTTERDAM to support the training and exercises. The ship which carries a total of 668 troops, 4 helicopters and 6 special boats called Landing Craft Utility (LCU) and Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel (LCVP) is expected to be in Lagos from 15 – 18 October and in Calabar from 21 – 24 October. It also carries many Fast Raid Interception Special Forces Craft used in inserting 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 LCUs and LCVPs are used to land troops from the sea to specific objectives on land.
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 4 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 Ordnance 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 Executive Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency Babatunde Fashola along with the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Azubike Ihejirika and the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba are expected to attend the exercises. 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. The Lagos training and exercises which has been nick named AFEFE EKO, Yoruba word for Lagos Wind will be commanded by the Flag Officer Commanding, the Western Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Ibokete Ibas.
Other programmes that will be conducted in Lagos under the AFRICAN WINDS programme are an Environmental Workshop and a Maritime Security Conference which are sponsored by the Netherlands Embassy. They will both be held onboard the ROTTERDAM. The Environmental Workshop will hold on 16 October while the Maritime Security Conference will hold on 17 October. It is expected that the Conference will be opened by the Chief of the Naval Staff and attended by the Governor of Lagos State. The former commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Anti-Piracy Task Force in the Indian Ocean, Rear Admiral Ben Bekkering and Brigadier General Oppelaar Briggen, the Director of Operations of the Netherlands Armed Forces will also attend the Maritime Security Conference.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, the training in Calabar will be conducted at the Nigerian Army Amphibious Warfare Training School (ATS) from 7 to 21 October while the exercises will be conducted at the Tinapa and Muddy Beach in Calabar and Oron Beach in Akwa Ibom State from 21 to 24 October. The exercises to be conducted in Calabar will include hydrographic survey and demonstrations. Other exercises to be conducted in Calabar include Riverine and Jungle operations which will be carried out by a combined force from the Nigerian Army Amphibious Warfare Training School, the United States, United Kingdom and Netherland Marines. An Amphibious Raid exercise planned and executed by troops from the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service and the NNS JUBILEE will be carried out at Oron Beach in Akwa Ibom State to mark the end of the exercise.
The training and exercises in Calabar and Oron nicknamed OFEM EFIK, meaning Calabar Winds in the Efik language will be commanded by the Flag Officer Commanding the Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Joe Aikhomu. The Executive Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke will be attending the Riverine and Jungle Exercise at Tinapa and Muddy Beach respectively while the Executive Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Obong Godswill Akpabio will attend the Amphibious Raid exercise at Oron Beach. Other dignitaries expected to attend the Oron exercise are the Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Azubike Ihejirika and the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba, who will equally witness the oil rig protection exercise. The leader of the Netherlands AFRICAN WINDS delegation, Colonel Fredik Swart will be paying courtesy calls on the Governors of Cross River and Akwa Ibom States on the arrival of the ship, HMNLS ROTTERDAM off the Calabar River.
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. The programme which is in furtherance of the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral OS Ibrahim’s drive to promote effective Joint Services operations among the Services of the Nigeria’s Armed Forces as well as friendly military forces from other countries and other maritime agencies. The Nigerian Ports Authority for example will be participating in the hydrographic survey exercise in Lagos and Calabar. In addition, the NPA has offered one of its ships, the MT SEA LION to participate in the Maritime Counter Terrorism Exercise in Lagos while a foremost indigenous oil prospecting and production company, Moni Pulo Nigeria Limited has permitted the Navy to use its Floating Production Facility, AGBANI for the oil rig protection exercise. The involvement of these non military organisations further underscores the success of the efforts of the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ezeoba has been making towards achieving a collaborative effort in tackling the maritime security challenges in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea.
So far, the HMNLS ROTTERDAM, which has 4 Nigerian Navy young officers onboard, has successfully conducted exercises with the armed forces of Morocco, Senegal, Ghana and Togo. She is expected to exercise with the armed forces of the Republic of Benin before arriving Nigeria on 15 October. In addition to her troop carrying capacity, the ship equally operates a hospital with two operating theatres.