President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday, said the intensive fleet recapitalisation drive his administration embarked on was a key driver in the quest for national prosperity.
Buhari made the disclosure at the end of the 2023 Presidential Fleet Review (PFR) held in his honour by the Nigerian Navy to mark the end of his administration.
With the theme: “Fleet Readiness for National Prosperity,” the navy assembled 16 warships and three AW Agusta helicopter, including Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) KADA, NNS IBENO and AW 140 Agusta helicopter for commissioning by the president.
In his speech, Buhari said: “There is an inextricable link between maritime security and economic prosperity given that the maritime environment serves both as a store house of resources as well as medium for maritime transport.
“The safe and secure utilisation of these resources for national prosperity in support of Nigeria’s Blue Economy aspirations is cardinal to the Nigerian Navy’s policing duties.
“Realising this, my administration vigorously engaged in the recapitalisation of the Nigerian Navy Fleet throughout my eight years in office.
“Accordingly, about 20 capital ships have been acquired for the Nigerian Navy. These ships comprise Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV), Landing Ship Transport (LST), Hydrographic Survey Vessels, Seaward Defence Boats (SDB) and helicopters as well as over 300 Inshore Patrol Vessels and Assault Craft.” On the showcase of different types and classes of ships as well as helicopter, he said it symbolised the nation’s maritime power and its preparedness to carry out the Navy’s constitutional roles.
“Also, the combat displays staged by elements of the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service and a mix of the air assets from the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Air Force were quite impressive. “I expect this to translate into actual capability to dominate Nigeria’s maritime environment and secure the vast resources therein for the socio-economic development of our great country.” Expressing delight at the Nigerian Navy’s efforts in indigenous shipbuilding, he said it was in line with the nation’s local content development plan is yielding positive result.
“Our naval engineers were wholly responsible for building three Seaward Defence Boats namely NNS ANDONI, NNS KARADUWA and NNS OJI. In December 2021, I equally performed keel laying foundation for the construction of two Seaward Defence Boats, which will be ready by 2024.
“At this rate, I have no doubt that the Nigerian Navy will soon commence construction of larger ships for itself and other navies in the region and beyond. This achievement is a great pride to Nigeria and an impressive contribution to national development,” he added.
Speaking on the theme of the PFR, he said it was carefully chosen to underscore response capability of the Nigerian Navy to infringements in our maritime spaces and in the Gulf of Guinea towards attainment of national prosperity.
He also commended the Nigerian Navy for putting these vessels into effective use as evident in successes recorded in the fight against resource theft, counter drug operations and piracy.
He said: “As you are aware, piracy reduced significantly over the past seven years, which culminated in delisting Nigeria from the list of piracy prone countries by the International Maritime Bureau in March 2022.
“Furthermore, application of technology to secure the maritime domain has supported intelligence driven deployment of these ships.
“I will particularly commend the diligent arraignment and prosecution of MT HEROIC IDUN, sequel to the detection and arrest for attempting to load crude oil, offshore Bonny in August 2022 without authorisation amongst others.
“This successful conviction further confirms the navy’s resolve to protect resources for economic prosperity.”
Earlier in his welcome address, the Chief to Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, said the review was organised in honour of the president who had provided unprecedented support to the Nigerian Navy in terms of fleet recapitalisation, infrastructural development and personnel welfare thereby boosting morale and fighting efficiency.
On the fleet review he said: “The recapitalisation of the fleet has enhanced Nigerian Navy maritime security framework and repositioned it to effectively combat maritime crimes.
“There is no better evidence to show than the record of drastic decline in piracy incidents in Nigerian waters as contained in the International Maritime Bureau Global Piracy Report of 14 July 2021.
“This culminated in delisting Nigeria from the International Maritime Bureau List of Piracy prone countries in March last year. These achievements are attributable to sustained presence of Nigerian Navy ships at sea, increased regional and international synergy as well as active maritime domain awareness.
“To further bolster Nigerian Navy maritime security operations efforts, Mr. President approved acquisition of additional vessels as well as several air assets.
“Currently under construction are two by 76m High Endurance Offshore Patrol Vessels in Turkey, three by 45m Fast Patrol Boats in France and two by Augusta Westland helicopters amongst others.
“Undoubtedly, the transformation of the Nigerian Navy within the eight years of Mr. President’s tenure in office has repositioned the Navy for better service delivery and actualisation of its constitutional mandate.”
After the review, there was a combat display by a squadron of Nigerian Navy ships, boats and elements of the Special Boat Service as well as display by air assets of both the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Air Force.
This was hereafter followed by the formal unveiling of the Nigerian National Maritime Strategy by the president as well as the formal commissioning of the newly acquired platforms.
At the PFR were heads of foreign navies, former Chief of General Staff (CGS), Commodore Ebitu Okiwe (rtd); Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi; Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor; Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Faruk Yahaya; and Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Oladayo Amao.
Others included former CDS, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim (rtd); former Chiefs of naval staff- Vice Admirals Samuel Afolayan (rtd), Allison Madueke (rtd), Dele Ezeoba (rtd), and Ibok-Ete Ibas (rtd).
Also in attendance were wife of the CNS, Hajia Nana Gambo; wife of the COAS, Dr. Amao; the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi; Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’adu Abubakar, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, among several others.