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As NNS UNITY arrives yesterday from China via South Africa and Angola, the Nigerian Navy said it has deployed four warships and 3,400 troops to tackle piracy, oil theft and vandalism of critical oil and gas installations within the circumference of Nigerian territorial waters.
Rear Admiral James Oluwole, the Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command, announced the deployment, codenamed “Exercise Sharkbite’’ on Thursday in Onne, Rivers State.
The warships deployed for the exercise were the Nigerian Navy Ship Okpabana, NNS Ologbo, NNS Burutu, NNS Sagbama, and a naval Augusta helicopter.
He said that the two-day exercise would also serve as avenue to check combat readiness of troops to tackle militant attacks on oil and gas installations which plunged the nation into recession.
Oluwole said: “The exercise is an annual event for the employment of naval resources in training for maritime operations, either exploring the effects of warfare or testing strategies without actual combat.
“The exercise will enhance the capacity of the command in the fight against piracy, sea robbery, hijacking, illegal bunkering and crude oil theft, among other maritime crimes.
“This exercise was informed by worsening vandalism of critical oil and gas infrastructure by militants which has plunged the nation into recession.
“The participating fleets will conduct naval evolutions, patrols, visit, boarding, search and seizure, opposed boarding of a hijacked vessel, maritime interception, blockade of some river entrances and target practice, among others.”
Oluwole said the exercise which covers 24,000 nautical miles between Rivers and Cross Rivers States coastal areas sought to boost socio-economic activities at the nation’s maritime domain.
He said the exercise would not interfere with legitimate activities of oil companies and seafarers; movement of commuters and other economic activities at sea and creeks in the region.
According to him, the exercise follows a recent operation, Operation Tsare Teku III, launched by the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ete-Ibas, which sought to prevent attacks on merchant ships.
He said: “The Nigerian Navy must be in the best position to secure critical oil and gas infrastructure both ashore and offshore for socio-economic activities to thrive in our maritime domain.
“The 3,400 personnel participating in this exercise comprised 3,000 ratings and 400 officers.”
It was not clear if the deployment is part of the new security details of the federal government to buoy earning s from oil and facilitation of coastal trade within African coastal nations.