French Navy warship Mistral in Nigeria for maritime exercises

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The French Navy’s amphibious assault ship Mistral is in Nigeria for the combined exercises Crocodile Lift and Grand African Nemo, which started on Monday.

The exercises kicked off aboard the Nigerian Navy ship Kada on 9 October, and run until 15 October. Nigeria is deploying five of its warships (NNS Kada, NNS Aba, NNS Udu, NNS Kano and the DB Lagos) and two helicopters while the French Navy is participating with the Misral and the Ventose surveillance frigate, already in the Gulf of Guinea as part of Operation Corymbe. France will also contribute a Falcon 50 maritime surveillance aircraft and Atlantique maritime patrol aircraft.

The exercise will practice combating threats such as piracy, trafficking, illegal fishing, and maritime pollution.

Eighteen countries from the region are taking part in Exercise Grand African Nemo, from Senegal to Angola. The Brazilian Navy ship, OPV Amazonas, is one of the participants.

“Since 2018, Grand African Nemo has become the major annual meeting for maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea,” the French Navy said. France organizes each year, within the framework of the 2013 Yaoundé Protocol, three to four African Nemo regional maritime exercises and a major Grand African Nemo exercise.

Exercise Crocodile Lift is an amphibious sea excise, first held in November 2023. The decision to merge the two exercises was driven by the overlapping timelines of both events and the need for a multifaceted approach to maritime security.

In his speech during the official exercise launch, Nigerian Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, said national and international collaboration is needed to mitigate threats facing the Gulf of Guinea, including oil theft.

“Exercises Crocodile Lift and Grand African Nemo, which have both become annual events, are some of the well thought out international exercises involving the Nigerian Navy. It is gratifying to note that these exercises have further enhanced effective collaboration against maritime insecurity such as crude oil theft, illegal oil bunkering, piracy, sea robbery, hostage taking as well as illegal unreported and unregulated fishing,” he said.

“Overall, I am optimistic that these exercises will add impetus to my vision to have a ‘highly motivated professional naval force capable of shaping the security outcomes within Nigeria’s maritime domain and the littorals including land-based engagements in fulfilment of Nigeria’s national interest’. Additionally, the exercises will further fulfil the Nigerian Navy’s commitment to the objectives of the Yaoundé protocol in ensuring maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea,” Ogalla said.

“The presence in Lagos of our landing helicopter dock Mistral in the framework of the Corymbe mission and of the European Union’s coordinated maritime presence appears today as a tangible sign of the confidence that is now established between our two navies,” French Defence Attache to Nigeria Colonel Laurent Favier noted.

Since 1990, one or two French vessels supported by a maritime patrol aircraft have been deployed in the Gulf of Guinea on an almost permanent basis as part of Operation Corymbe. By strengthening the capacities of local navies, France is participating in the development of the security architecture resulting from the Yaoundé process, the French Navy said.