By Stephen Ubanna
Barely two years after the United Kingdom , UK, Royal Navy ,and the Nigerian Navy, under the close watch of the then Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, now retired entered into a working agreement to partner in their operations , the Royal Navy had docked its HMS TRENTs warship, in Lagos for the second year running to continue from what it had started in 2021.
Ben Llewellyn, the then British High Commissioner in Lagos, had said that the Royal Navy which is working in partnership with the Nigerian Armed Forces, particular, the Nigerian Nay, has no ulterior motive in deploying the River – class offshore Royal Navy patrol vessel into the West African country but only involved in engagements that would ‘’ support trade, investment , economic growth and the nation’s defence objectives’’.
The Nigeria government had spent $195 million to procure maritime security assets for the Deep Blue Project which contract was said to have been won by HLSI Security Systems and Technologies Limited, an Israeli firm in 2017.
Of the security equipments that was supplied by the company between 2020 and now, the Nigerian Navy alone operates and maintains 16 Armoured Vehicles, 17 Fast interception Boats and two Special Mission Vessels while the Nigerian Airforce NAF oversees the operations and maintenance of the three special helicopters, two Special Mission air crafts and four unmanned Aerial vehicles. The two security agencies personnel have been operating the security assets over the last three but they still needed the expertise to effectively manage it.
Jonny Baxter, who had taken over from Llwellyn , as the UK Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos, statement speaks volume. The UK, Deputy High Commissioner, had said that the HMS TRENTs Patrol warship which had departed Gibraltar carrying an expert boarding team of the British Royal Marines and a Puma surveillance drone which had arrived in Lagos , on October 23, 2023 is ’’to support Nigeria and other West and Central African allies to develop capability to fight illegal crimes at the respective countries waters and at the sea and to ensure that they can play effective role in bringing stability to the regions.
He noted that with around six billion UK, pound Sterling goods passing through the Gulf of Guinea region, the Royal Navy could no Longer sit -by and watch the Nigerian Navy tackle the International criminal elements alone.
The Envoy may have alluded to this when he disclosed that that ‘’the Royal Navy has a long history of engagement with the two subregions in the African Continent and an enduring partnership with the Nigerian Armed forces’’.
Given an insider information on the deployment of the UK warship to Nigeria, Baxter had said that ‘’it demonstrates how truly Global Britain is stepping up on the world stage to tackle international security challenges to protect ocean going vessels and their Crew members’’.
He had declared that the deployment of the HMS TRENTS to Nigeria and which would also visit the other West and Central African allies will go a long way to contribute to a wider international effort by UK and other friends of the of the Gulf of Guinea , which had supported in one or the other to implement the regional maritime security frameworks and thus bringing stability to the region that has seen international shipping disrupted, seafarers’ lives threatened and damage caused to local economies’’.
He may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he said that ‘’the country is an important and value defence partner for the UK and the entire West African subregion, noting that the two countries face many shared threats. This may have informed why the UK government are keen ‘’to work with Nigeria to defeat theses criminal activities in the region and to help improve maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea’’.
The UK patrol vessel, according to the Deputy High Commissioner would participate in the much- talked about ‘’French-led multi-national Exercise Grand African Nemo’’, believed would bring together all international partners in the two regions ‘’to tackle piracy, sea robbery and other criminal activities in order to complete its assignment.
Tim Langford, the Commander of the HMS TRENTs warship had said that his team had really looked forward to the opportunity to work with their Nigerian Naval Counterparts and build on the relationships that had been established when the patrol ship first visited Lagos in 2021.
The Commander had confirmed that the Crews of the ship would be ‘’engaged in capacity and efficiency building activities in the area of fighting skills, prisoner handling, evidence exploitation, equipment and weapon capabilities handling as well as vessel boarding search and seizure’’. It was not surprising why he had aid that ‘’it is an honour for the same HMS TRENT to return to Nigeria on a three month-long deployment to the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea for security patrols’’ .
Informed sources told The Value News that the UK, warship in Nigeria is one of the five Royal Navy Patrol vessels that have been deployed around the world and in areas, described of trade importance to the former colonial powers’’.
Recall that last July, the Asian country of China, warship had docked in Nigeria as part of the growing naval cooperation between the two trading nations. China, going by reports from the Federal ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, at present ‘’is a major investor in infrastructural facilities in Nigeria, Iand even in the recently Commissioned $1.5 billion Lagos Lekki Deep Sea port’’, that was said to have been equipped with the state of the art technology , such as biometric scanners and facial recognition systems.
The Lekki Deep seaport had been described as a home of heavy industries by maritime analysts. The creation of a Customs Command and the deployment of an Area Controller to the Command to oversee its operations of the port and collect the necessary excise duties and other statutory charges from port users by Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, the Customs acting Comptroller General, clearly shows the importance attached to the deep seaport as a revenue spinner for the government .
Many believe that Bashir Jamoh,OFR, Director General, NIMASA, three-point agenda of Maritime Security, Maritime Safety and Ship Development on assumption of duties on March 10, 2020, and which he was said to have pursued vigorously to implement over the last three years and qqa which had reduced piracy in Nigerians and the Gulf of Guinea over the last years may have attracted the international attention.
The NIMASA Chief Executive Officer may have intensified the agency counter-piracy efforts because the Gulf of Guinea is a major global shipping route stretching over 5,700 Kilometres from Nigeria, Senegal Cameroun to Angola and which has long been at risk from piracy with the Nigerian gangs carrying out most of the attacks on the foreign ocean going vessels plying the sea.