The origin of the Nigerian Navy (NN)could be traced to the Marine Department of the Royal Navy established in 1887 as a quasi-military organization, which combined the duties of the present-day Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority and the Nigerian Navy. Elements of the Marine Department took part in military operations against the Germans in Cameroun during the First World War between 1914–1918. However, the colonial administration did not consider it necessary to establish a proper navy, as they believed that it was the duty of the Royal Navy to give naval protection to Nigeria. Also, the Marine Department was considered adequate to look after security of the ports and coastal approaches and provide harbour services for Royal Navy ships on West African patrols. This was the situation until the end of the Second World War in 1945.
After the war, the colonial administration preferred that emphasis be placed on port-related duties for the Marine Department. A proposal was then made to establish NPA. The officers of the Marine Department, who belonged to Royal Navy Reserve, did not give up on the idea of a navy and therefore continued to press for the establishment of a naval force. The agitation for the establishment of a navy was succinctly summarized in the words of Mr LL Olakunle, a member of Parliament in 1556. He said “If we must have a Nigerian Navy, then we must have something along the pattern of the British Navy”. With further pressure from our nationalists, the colonial administration disbanded the colonial Marine Department. Sequel to this action, 250 officers and men of the disbanded Marine Department were put together to form the nucleus of the Nigerian Naval Force (NNF) in April 1956. The Force was later renamed Naval Defence Force (NDF) of Nigeria. Efforts of the Marine Department officers eventually led to the policy statement by the Colonial Government of Nigeria contained in the Sessional Paper No. 6 of 1956 for the establishment of a Naval Defence Force (NDF).
On 1 June 1956, the NDF commenced operation with 11 assorted ships and craft inherited from the erstwhile colonial Marine Department of the Royal Navy. On 1 August 1956, the first legislation on the Navy was passed by the House of Representatives and was assented to on 5 September 1956 by Sir James Robertson, the Governor-General of Nigeria. It was called the Nigerian Navy Ordinance. The Ordinance re-designated the NNDF as the Royal Nigerian Navy. Consequently, on 1 May 1958, the NDF was legally established as a force and re-designated Royal Nigerian Navy (RNN) as a mark of allegiance to the Queen of England.
In 1963, when Nigeria became a republic, the prefix “Royal” was dropped and the name became the Nigerian Navy. The modern day NN came into being legally through the Act of Parliament No 21 of 1964. At inception, the NN was statutorily required to patrol only 3 nautical miles, which was the limit of the territorial waters. The post-independence Navy Act of 1964, formally established the NN and removed the limitation of the NN operations to the country’s territorial waters. However, the NN remained with a few patrol boats without evolving significantly into a multi-mission maritime arm of the Nigerian Armed Forces. The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 and the National Defence Policy 2006 accordingly charged the NN with the defence of Nigeria by sea. These statutes also expanded NN roles to cover the full spectrum of military, policing and diplomatic functions of a modern navy. Performing these roles efficiently and effectively entails linkage and synergy with the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Air Force and other relevant maritime security agencies.
Present Structure of the Nigerian Navy
The NN is currently structured into 9 Branches at the Naval Headquarters, 5 commands and a number of autonomous units. The 5 commands are made up of 3 operations commands – Western Naval Command, Central Naval Command and Eastern Naval Command with Headquarters located at Apapa, Yenagoa and Calabar- as well as the Training and Logistics Commands with Headquarters at Apapa and Oghara respectively. Each of the 5 commands is headed by a Flag Officer of the rank of Rear Admiral. The NN autonomous units include Naval Ordnance Depot (NOD), Naval Doctrine and Assessment Centre (NDAC) and Navy Holdings Limited (NHL). Navy Holdings has 9 subsidiary companies. These include Naval Dockyard Limited (NDL), Naval Shipyard Limited (NSL), Naval Building & Construction Company Limited (NBCCL), Navy Hotels & Suites Limited (NHSL), Navy Micro Finance Bank Limited (NMFBL), Navy Maritime Services Limited (NMSL), Naval Exchange (NAVEX), Naval Engineering Services Limited (NESL) and Navy Clearing and Forwarding Services Limited (NCFSL). The autonomous units and support facilities enable the NN to maintain the fleet and personnel for sustained operations. The NN has also, recently, established a Project Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate at the NHQ for better management of NN projects.
The NN, on 27 December 2006, established an elite special forces, the Special Boat Service (SBS). The SBS represents the NN’s answer to the contemporary security challenges of terrorism, insurgency, hostage taking and piracy. The SBS operatives were actively involved in Operation PULO-SHIELD in Niger Delta, Operation SAFE HAVEN in Plateau State, Operation RESTORE ORDER in Kano State, Operation IRON FENCE 2 in Kogi State and Operation ZAMAN LAFIYA in the North East. The SBS elements are currently involved in Operation LAFIA DOLE in the North East and SAFE HAVEN in Plateau State. The NN also increased its Regional Maritime Awareness Capability Centres (RMAC) from 7 to 10 to monitor maritime activities more elaborately. Additionally, the maritime domain awareness capability of the NN would be greatly enhanced with the “FALCON EYE Project” when activated. The Project, driven by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), is tailored towards total coverage of the nation’s maritime domain. Overall, these developments have enabled the NN to expand its surveillance coverage of our maritime domain to check illegal activities.
The NN is also being repositioned to meet contemporary security challenges through the implementation of the Nigerian Navy Transformation Plan 2011 – 2020 in line with global best practices. The Plan is hinged on 8 pillars with associated lines of efforts towards the attainment of the overall strategic end state of transforming the NN. In line with this, the NN recently commissioned 3 Inshore Patrol Craft and one Seaward Defence Boat to enhance naval presence in Nigeria’s territorial waters. Fleet renewal also received a boost with the recent acquisition of US Coast Guard Cutter GALATTIN now renamed NNS OKPABANA, which joined the NN fleet on 2 January 2015, in addition to her sister ship NNS THUNDER that was acquired earlier.
It is important to note that the NN took a bold step in the local construction of vessels with the successful construction of a Seaward Defence Boat (SDB) named NNS ANDONI. Building on this success, the keel for the second SDB was laid on 1 June 2012 by former President, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, His Excellency, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR. On 18 April 2012, the NN signed a contract with a Chinese Shipbuilding Company for the construction of 2 Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs). One of the 2 OPVs, NNS CENTENARY was handed over to the NN on 27 Nov 2014 and joined the fleet on 6 Feb 2015. Also, NNS SAGBAMA and NNS PROSPERITY joined the fleet while the second OPV from China, NNS UNITY joined the fleet on 4 November 2016.
Arising from the presidential mandate to put an end to crude oil theft and all other illegalities in Nigeria’s maritime environment, the Nigerian Navy conducted a Fleet Evaluation Exercise from 11 – 17 November 2012. The Exercise, code- named Exercise FARAUTA, which was conducted in the bight of Benin and Bonny, stressed the importance of jointness as it involved elements of the Nigerian Army and Nigerian Air Force. The emphasis was on Bonny-Akassa-Escravos axis up to the limit of the offshore oil platform of Bonga. These areas are hot spots for crude oil theft. The boarding and searching of several vessels during the exercise led to the interrogation of 17 vessels and arrest of several others including MT ANDROUSSA and MT AEGEAN HORIZON for various infractions. Similar exercises were conducted by the 3 operational commands. These were EXs ICHUNTA, NDIKARA and SEIOTU DUOPAMO.
In 2013, the NN was involved in exercises with Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and other nations under the platform of Exercise OBANGAME EXPRESS 2013 in Cameroon. The Exercise was primarily aimed at deterring piracy amongst other maritime crimes prevalent in the offshore area of Calabar. Nigeria hosted the 2014 OBANGAME EXPRESS. The multi-national exercise was aimed at enhancing cooperation, information sharing and prosecution of trans-border maritime crimes among member-states of the Gulf of Guinea. Nigerian Navy also participated actively in the 2015 edition of the Exercise that was hosted by Ghana from 18 – 20 Mar 15 with naval ships from the United Kingdom, Spain, Brazil, France, China and Italy.
The NN was also engaged in joint anti-piracy operations with the Republic of Benin Navy from 2011 until June 2014 when it was transmuted into a multinational task force. The operation codenamed OPERATION PROSPERITY helped to significantly reduce the menace of piracy and other criminal activities in the common maritime border between Nigeria and Benin Republic. Drawing from the successes of the Nigeria-Benin joint anti-piracy operations, the NN, under the auspices of the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Security Strategy is involved in much more robust operations with Republics of Benin, Togo and Niger under the ECOWAS/ECCAS Pilot Zone E maritime security arrangement.
The NN recently established patrol corridors to ensure complete coverage of all the hotspots along our coastline. The corridor extends from the coast to 50nm seaward covering Igbokoda through to Calabar River axis. The corridor is designed for overlapping patrols by the 3 operational commands – WNC, CNC and ENC. It is envisaged that the overlapping patrols by the 3 commands would checkmate maritime illegalities in the nation’s waters. Also, efforts to re-establish a functional joint maritime air patrol mechanism with the NAF are in progress.
In order to address contemporary maritime security challenges on a regional scale, the NN in collaboration with the United States Office of Security Cooperation, organised the First Gulf of Guinea Regional Maritime Awareness Capability Conference from 27 – 31 July 2013 at the Tinapa Lakeside Hotel Calabar. Similarly, the NN in partnership with International Quality and Productivity Centre (IQPC) hosted the First Offshore Patrol Vessels Africa Conference from 27 – 28 August 2013 at the Eko Hotels and Suites, Lagos.
Nigeria’s image received a major boost with the participation of the Nigerian Navy Ship THUNDER in the Royal Australian Navy’s Centenary in Sydney, Australia from 3 – 11 October 2013. NNS THUNDER’s participation in the International Fleet Review provided an opportunity for enhanced professionalism and diplomatic ties between both navies and countries respectively. It also provided the desired sea training for officers and ratings of the NN during the deployment.
The NN also hosted a major combined exercise, nicknamed Ex AFRICAN WINDS under the African Partnership Station Programme. The Exercise involved training and exercises in Lagos, Calabar and Oron with elements of Dutch, US, UK and Spanish Navies and Special Forces on the Dutch Navy Amphibious Support Ship, the HNLMS ROTTERDAM. The trainings took place in Lagos from 3-14 October 2013 while exercises were conducted in Lagos from 15-18 October and Calabar and Oron from 21-24 October 2013. Some of the recent operations conducted by the Nigerian Navy in order to ensure maritime security include EX TREASURE GUARD (18-22 December 2015) and EX OPIA TOHA (26-27 May 2016). Furthermore, in response to increased piracy attacks in Nigeria’s eastern waters, the Nigerian Navy recently emplaced a new and ongoing operations code named OPERATION TSARE TEKU.
Prior to the commencement of the OPERATION TSARE TEKU in April 2016, there were about 45 successful cases of piracy attacks in Nigerian waters between January and April 2016. From April to July 2016, only 2 successful cases of piracy were recorded. Considering the success recorded since the inception of the operation, OPERATION TSARE TEKU II was activated on 16 Jul 16 and the area of operation extended to Bonga Terminal. It is worthy to note that only 1 successful case and 1 unsuccessful attempt were also recorded during the second phase of the operations between July and October 2016. Following the successful conduct of the first and second phases of the Operation which were launched on 25 April 2016 and 22 July 2016 respectively. OPERATION TSARE TEKU III was launched on 20 October 2016.
The renewed vigor in the war against crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism is yielding results with the increase in the destruction of illegal refineries, barges, and wooden boats as well as arrests of suspected oil thieves. Between January 2014 and November 2016, NN patrols led to the arrest of 144 vessels involved in criminal activities. Furthermore, the NN has destroyed about 388 illegal refineries, 75 barges, 341 wooden boats, 4,262 auxiliary equipment and arrested 202 persons in the same period. The success of the NN’s efforts can be attested to by the fact that between 2015 and 2016, 2,765 crude oil tankers successfully loaded a total of 971,673, 751 metric tons of crude oil safely from Nigeria’s maritime domain on behalf of the Federal Government without any incidence of attack.
The Naval War College is the highest naval training institution in Nigeria. It was built to boost security in the maritime sector, as well as enhance the capability of naval officers to make sound decisions, both in command and management positions.