Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, Director, Directorate of Intelligence, U.S. Africa Command says illegal maritime activities undermines food security, the rule of law and economic development in the Gulf of Guinea(GOG) region.
Berg made this known on Thursday in her remarks at the opening ceremony of the sea exercise Obangame Express at the Naval Dockyard Limited in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that no fewer than 31 African and Allied countries are participating in the 9th edition of the exercise.
Berg who lauded the commitment of the 31 nations scheduled to participate in the year’s exercise, said maritime illegalities undermined the rule of law in the region.
“Maritime illegalities such as illegal fishing, trafficking of weapons, narcotics and people, as well as the ongoing threat of piracy, undermined the rule of law, food security, and economic development in the region.
“This exercise is a clear demonstration of the U. S. dedication to combat these illicit activities and help our partners in the GOG to provide security for their resources, their economy, and their people.
“Obangame Express 2019 will make the region a safe place for maritime commerce and ultimately help increase prosperity of the region,” Berg said.
The United States Consul General Mr John Bray, in his remarks, noted that Obangame Exercise had grown in leaps and bounds, both in complexity and in accomplishment.
“We note the efforts by regional navies to work together in the spirit of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct.
“This togetherness is designed to improve regional cooperation, maritime domain awareness, and information-sharing to enhance the collective capabilities of GOG and West African nations to counter sea-based illicit activity,” Bray remarked.
The Cheif of the Naval Staff(CNS), Vice Adm. Ibok- Ette Ibas, while addresing delegates from 31 countries of the world said this year’s exercise provided another unique opportunity to appraise operational and tactical scenarios akin to real life challenges commonly experienced within the region.
“I must therefore specially commend the navies of the Kingdom of Morocco, Portugal and the United States that have dispatched warships as well as other regional navies that have sent personnel to participate in this year’s Exercise OBANGAME EXPRESS.
“I am pleased to mention that the navy along with the navies of ECOWAS Zone E and the Gendarmerie of Niger Republic have been in the vanguard of efforts to build synergy across boundaries necessary to mitigate maritime security challenges within the zone.
“Under the ECOWAS Integrated Maritime Strategy, the member states have endorsed a memorandum of understanding for joint patrols of their common Maritime,” he said.