Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday commissioned into service four recently acquired warships, with two more to be commissioned before the end of the year.
The vessels that were handed over to their commanding officers at the Naval Dockyard at Victoria Island in Lagos were the NNS Centenary, NNS Prosperity, NNS Okpabana and NNS Sagbama, reports the News Agency of Nigeria.
The Nigerian Navy (NN) said it was the first time in its history that four warships would be commissioned at once. “It is a demonstration of the Federal Government’s efforts to reposition the Nigerian Navy to meet contemporary security challenges. The addition of the ships will enhance the Nigerian Navy’s ongoing and acknowledged efforts at improving security in the nation’s maritime environment,” the Navy said.
The NNS Okpabana is the former United States Coast Guard cutter USCGC Gallatin and will be used to patrol Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The vessel arrived in Nigeria on January 2 this year, joining the Navy’s other Hamilton class cutter NNS Thunder.
The NNS Centenary is a new P-18N offshore patrol vessel built by China Shipbuilding and Offshore International Company (CSOC). She arrived in Nigeria on February 6 and will be used for maritime surveillance, EEZ patrol and protecting offshore resources and infrastructure, according to Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin. “The Centenary is to also provide aid to civil authority when called upon to do so in period such as civil unrest and natural disaster among others,” he said.
The NNS Sagbama is a 38 metre patrol craft. It is not clear if it was domestically built or donated to Nigeria by the Chinese government.
The NNS Prosperity is the former Irish offshore patrol vessel L E Emer, decommissioned in September 2013 and subsequently sold to Nigeria. The 65 metre long, 1 020 ton ship was used for fisheries patrol and will be used by the Nigerian Navy for training junior officers and ratings, according to Jibrin.
“As the lead maritime security agency, therefore, the NN deserves all the support it needs to effectively carry out its statutory roles,” Jonathan is quoted by Premium Times as saying, adding that another two vessels would be commissioned this year.
“The high dependence of the nation’s economy on offshore resources, as well as the enormous potentials of the maritime sector to contribute to our food security and employment generation, makes provision of effective maritime security very imperative. Therefore, the Nigerian Navy, as the lead maritime security agency, deserves all the support it needs, to effectively carry out its statutory roles.
“In this regard, and in spite of other pressing demands, my administration has continued to support the fleet recapitalization objective of the Nigerian Navy Transformation Plan 2010 – 2020, which was formulated to support the realization of the goals of the Federal Government’s Transformation Agenda,” Jonathan is quoted by PANA as saying.
“It is remarkable to note that the Nigerian Navy Ship Okpabana is the sixth ship the Nigerian Navy has acquired from the United States of America since 2002. On the other hand, Nigerian Navy Ship Centenary is the first of the two initial acquisitions from China. I am aware that the second vessel is still under construction in China and will be delivered before the end of the year.”
The second P-18N Jonathan referred to is the NNS Unity. The majority of its outfitting will be done in Nigeria in order to develop the indigenous shipbuilding industry and alleviate unemployment. CSOC has been contracted to upgrade the Nigerian Naval Shipyard in Port Harcourt so that it can build vessels and maintain vessels up to 10 000 dwt. Upgrades to the dockyard include a new jetty, a new dry dock and other additions.