The Nigerian Navy celebrated its 68th anniversary between May 24 and June 1, 2024, commemorating almost seven decades of dedication, service, and sacrifice. The milestone event was marked with a series of activities, including a Regional Maritime Exercise, an International Maritime Conference, commissioning of new platforms, and sporting events.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, commissioned three newly-acquired ships and two helicopters into the Nigerian Navy. The ships are NNS OCHUZOR (35m Hydrographic Survey Vessel), NNS CHALAWA (32m Seaward Defence Boat), and NNS ZUR (32m Seaward Defence Boat), while the helicopters are Helo NN 412 (Agusta A109SP Helicopter) and Helo NN 414 (Agusta A109SP Helicopter).

The President commended the Nigerian Navy for its anti-oil-theft efforts. In his words “I wish to applaud the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla, his officers and men, for championing the anti-crude oil theft crusade since I assumed office in 2023. This has contributed immensely to the higher oil production level we have seen.”

The anniversary celebrations also featured the flag-off of the Regional Maritime Exercise (REMEX) tagged “ABO-OKUN”, onboard Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) KADA. The exercise featured 17 ships from Nigeria, Brazil, China, Cameroon, Ghana, and Togo, as well as two Nigerian Navy helicopters.

The Nigerian Navy also hosted the International Maritime Conference (IMC) 2024, with the theme “Promoting the Blue Economy in Africa through International Cooperation on Maritime Security.” The conference was attended by representatives from South Korea, France, China, the United Kingdom, Spain, Russia, Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, and Benin.

The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla, leading the celebrations, paying tribute to the Navy’s rich history and the bravery of its personnel. He thanked President Tinubu for his unflinching support for the Nigerian Navy, which has enabled the service to record significant successes in its anti-oil-theft efforts.

He said, “The successes recorded by the Nigerian Navy were made possible by the resolve of the President, Commander-in-Chief, Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR, to provide the necessary support to the Nigerian Navy.”

In line with its 2021 – 2030 strategic plan, the Nigerian Navy under the leadership of Vice Admiral Ogalla has embarked on fleet recapitalization, manpower development, indigenous shipbuilding efforts, and strategic partnerships, to secure Nigeria’s maritime domain, and by extension, the Gulf of Guinea region. The service has also prioritized capacity building and training, with a focus on enhancing its personnel’s skills and expertise. Later this year the Navy will take delivery of two brand new 76m Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs).

The African Union’s Combined Maritime Task Force for the Gulf of Guinea was operationalized in 2023, with the Headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria. A Nigerian Navy officer has been designated as the Commander of the Maritime Task Force, while Nigeria is also hosting the central sector Task Group of the Task Force, with the northern and southern sectors hosted by Senegal and the Republic of Congo respectively.

Recently, the Nigerian Navy Hydrography Department was upgraded to become Nigeria’s National Hydrographic Agency, with the objective of improving charting and seabed mapping of Nigeria’s maritime domain. This is yet another milestone demonstrating the centrality of the Nigerian Navy’s operations to the growth and development of Nigeria’s multi-billion-dollar Blue Economy.

On its part, the Nigerian Navy’s Naval Dockyard Limited (NDL) is proudly opening new vistas in its technical capabilities, with the commencement of ship repair efforts and trainings for friendly navies. For example, the Naval Dockyard is carrying out extensive repairs of six (6) Benin Republic naval ships. Currently, three of those ships, BNS PENDJARI, BNS CUOFFO and BNS MATELOT BRICE KPOMASSE, are in the NDL dock undergoing major refits.

Additionally, as part of the anniversary celebrations, Vice Admiral Ogalla launched the newly-established International Maritime Institute of Nigeria (IMION), to serve as a strategic Nigerian maritime think-tank, and focal point for cutting-edge research into maritime & ocean governance, maritime security, law enforcement, hydrography, blue economy, and climate change. There is no doubt that IMION that will help position Nigeria in a vantage place within contemporary global maritime discourse.

There has been so much for the Nigerian Navy to celebrate as it marks its 68th anniversary. The anniversary celebrations serve as a reminder of the important role one of Africa’s leading Navies plays in maintaining national security, advancing economic development, and promoting regional stability. As the Nigerian Navy continues to evolve and adapt to emerging challenges, its commitment to serving the nation remains unwavering.

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