GULF OF GUINEA (March 22, 2015) Nigerian and Cameroonian forces prepare to board the Military Sealift Command's joint high-speed vessel USNS Spearhead (JHSV 1) during Exercise Obangame Express 2015, March 22. Spearhead is on a scheduled deployment to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of the international collaborative capacity-building program Africa Partnership Station. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Joshua Davies/Released)

U.S, Nigeria, others in joint maritime exercise

Twenty three nations, including Nigeria, are actively participating in the 2015 Obangame Express — a multinational maritime exercise sponsored by the U.S. Africa Command.

The purpose of the exercise is to test multinational maritime forces in a broad range of naval operations in order to increase capability and capacity, as a collective whole, for Gulf of Guinea nations to deter piracy, illicit trafficking, and other maritime threats.

The exercise which began on March 19, 2015, will take place throughout the Gulf of Guinea, and will also have land-based Maritime Operations Centers throughout the region. Major centers of international activity will be in the vicinity of Accra, Ghana.

Speaking on Tuesday, during a Telephonic Media Briefing coordinated by the Africa Regional Media Hub of the U.S. Department of State in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Officer in Tactical Command of Exercise Obangame Express 2015, U.S. Navy Captain John Rinko, stated that Nigeria deployed naval forces and resources for the exercise.

“Their nation (Nigeria) has three offshore patrol vessels, a patrol craft, one maritime patrol aircraft and four boarding teams and two special operating forces boarding teams that are engaged in the exercise.

“So their nation (Nigeria) is, certainly through their participation, has clearly indicated the importance of this exercise to their nation and the importance of maritime security in their waters.

“It’s only suffice to say that we are encouraged by their significant continued support to this exercise series as we all recognize the importance of the Nigerian efforts in maintaining maritime security in the region,” Rinko said.

According to Captain Rinko, the Obangame Express 2015 marks the 5th year of execution of the exercise, in which participation has more than quadrupled since its inception in 2010.

“The level of participation is indicative of the global importance of this region and the desires of the United States and our African, European and South American partners to continue to improve regional cooperation in the Gulf of Guinea. Every nation participating plays a critical role in their own nations maritime security, as well as the security in the entire region,” he added.

The participating countries include: Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Spain, Togo, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).

Ibrahim Olalekan is a media writer and specialist. His enormous task as journalist has earned him media space in some leading online newspapers. Aside being a seasoned journalist, Olalekan has keen interest in advocacy, rural development and politics. Olalekan is a graduate of Mass Communication from the University of Lagos, and can be reach via: ibrahimolalekan001@yahoo.com or +2348101988313 and @lekanpaul