CONSAC 2021: Sea Power and National Prosperity. By Jibrin Baba Ndace

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“Any nation which derives benefits from the sea cannot turn its back on the sea” – Doctrine of Sea Power


The marine environment has always been very important factor in human existence – symbolising the saying, ‘water is life’. From pre-history, humankind has depended on the sea for transportation, trade, exploitation of natural resources, military operations and the spread of ideas.
Despite the advancement of technology, the sea has remained a dominant factor in the affairs of countries and states. According to the United Nations, “over three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihood.” Research indicates that littoral nations need the sea for four reasons: “passage of goods and people, (sustenance of commercial activities); passage of military forces, for diplomatic purposes and in the event of war, as a base for engaging the adversary’s land, air and sea targets; exploration and exploitation of resources in or under the sea; and preventing hostile military access.
Hence, littoral states understand the strategic importance of the maritime domain to their national economy and the need to protect the maritime interest through naval power. Nigeria as a littoral state located within the South Atlantic Ocean and in the Gulf of Guinea, is a maritime nation which requires a powerful navy positioned to secure the Exclusive Economic Zone within the maritime domain.
The vision of Nigeria’s Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, is to “leverage on all factors of national location, technology, training, teamwork and synergy to re-energise the Nigerian Navy and enhance it as a well-motivated and ready force in the fulfilment of national security objectives;” and the need to better position Nigeria as a naval power capable of securing the maritime domain for improved national prosperity. It is along this vision that the Chief of Naval Staff Annual Conference, CONSAC 2021, focused on “enhancing Nigeria’s Maritime Security for Improved National Prosperity.”
The event which held in Kano on the 2nd and 3rd of September, brought together stakeholders including the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi rtd, who represented the President Muhammadu Buhari, Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, members of the National Assembly, Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, other service chiefs, Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mele Kyari, Director General of NIMASA Dr. Bashir Jamoh, serving and retired senior officers and other stakeholders from the maritime sector.
In his welcome address, the Chief of Naval Staff said: “the Nigeria Navy is saddled with the mandate to secure (the) maritime environment which possesses strategic importance to the nation’s economy”. He expressed concern about the security threat in the environment which are “directed at the economic life line of Nigeria.
“The scourge of illegalities, such as sea robbery, piracy, crude oil theft, poaching, human and illicit trafficking of weapons and drugs among others constitute serious challenges to the development of the country and the region at large.”
The naval chief drew the attention of stakeholders to lack of synergy as a major challenge in securing the maritime domain. “Looking at most of the recent happenings especially the one posed by the global pandemic leading to economic challenges, it is clear that one of the major implications of the emerging security situation is the dearth of effective collaboration in maritime policing.
“The present situation thus calls for constant reappraisals, greater collaboration as well as inter-agency cooperation among stakeholders. In recent times, some federal and local initiatives were initiated towards ensuring greater productivity of security efforts. These initiatives testify to the political commitment to security and developmental imperatives in our maritime domain positive contribution of the local community and other sister agencies to ensuring safety in our maritime environment.”
He said the theme of this Conference: “Enhancing Nigeria’s Maritime Security for Improved National Prosperity”, was conceptualised to elicit proper understanding and develop strategies that will enhance (the) collective effort to meet present and emerging maritime challenges in (the) strategic environment. While emphasizing the need for synergy and collaboration among all stakeholders, Vice Admiral Gambo said: “no single ministry, department or agency can do it alone”.
At the end of the conference six papers were presented by various resource person in different thematic area in line with theme. As noted in the communiqué, the presentations laid bare some of the NN’s strategic concerns across the various spheres of its operations.
The papers presented include: “Nigeria’s Blue Economy Potentials for Sustainable Development: The Role of the Nigerian Navy, by Commodore SD Atakpa; Improving National Maritime Domain Awareness through Inter-Agency Cooperation: Models, Policy Options and Strategies by Rear Admiral FD Akpata; Nigerian Navy Fleet Maintenance Culture: An Appraisal of Naval Engineering Commitment and System Ownership by Commodore H Ibrahim; Harnessing Nigeria’s Ship-Building Capability for Improved Maritime Security and National Prosperity by Chukwuma Okolo; Enhancing Collaboration amongst Maritime Stakeholders for Improved Maritime Security in Nigeria, by Director General, NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh and Girl Child Education: A Strategy for Enhanced Gender Equality in the Nigerian Security Sector, by Peter Mancha. After each presentation, a panel of discussants as well as stakeholders in the audience provided more insights and perspective to the issues.
At the end of the conference, the communiqué was issued which emphasised that: “While legislative initiatives by the National Assembly are desirable to bolster the development of the Blue Economy in the medium-to-long term, efforts are to be re-doubled by the Nigerian Navy to facilitate cross-sectoral policy initiatives to galvanise due action on the triad Blue Economy pillars of livelihood, national economic development and sustainable exploration and exploitation of the marine Environment; the Total Spectrum Maritime Strategy is to be recalibrated to incorporate the imperatives of the Blue Environment; the Nigerian Navy will exercise all possible initiatives in maintaining its lead role in facilitating and promoting the Blue Economy to be duly recognised by maritime stakeholders in order to put potential conflicts over responsibility and jurisdiction at bay in legislative, policy, coordination and resource allocation.”
Other recommendations made at the conference include the need for “infrastructural upgrades and development of FOBs towards having functional jetties and logistics support facilities and to include the various necessary infrastructures to operate helicopters: the need for Nigerian Navy is to emplace measures to optimize the nexus of domain awareness, capacity and partnership to ensure maritime safety and Security; the need for the Nigerian Navy to explore all feasible options to improve terrain awareness of the backwaters; the need for the Nigerian Navy to engage relevant stakeholders having MDA capabilities with a view to integrating MDA facilities under one coordinating umbrella led by the Service; and the need for the Nigerian Navy to engage relevant agencies to activate their respective desks under the FALCON EYE.
The renewed commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari to support the Nigerian Navy in securing the maritime domain through aggressive drive in the ongoing Fleet Recapitalisation Agenda of the present administration was morale boosting for the CNS, officers, ratings and civilian staff of the service.
The presentations, panel discussions and contributions from other stakeholders brought to the fore the critical role of the Nigerian Navy and the understanding that as noted in the Doctrine of Sea Power: “Any nation which derives benefits from the sea cannot turn its back on the sea”.