The effect of the Coronavirus pandemic recently forced the Nigerian Navy to celebrate its 64th year anniversary in a low key. That was a departure the high octane celebrations it was used to. The event was at the Central Naval Command in Yenagoa.
Nigerian Navy’s 64th year’s anniversary celebration started on the 25th of May and ended on June 1, 2020.
The origin of the Nigerian Navy 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 harbor services for Royal Navy ships on West African patrol.
That 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 L.L Olakunle a member of Parliament in 1956.
He then 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 June 1, 1956, the NDF commenced operation with 11 assorted ships and
craft inherited from the erstwhile colonial Marine Department of the Royal Navy.
In 1963, when Nigeria became a republic, the prefix “Royal” was dropped and the name became the Nigerian Navy (NN). The modern day NN came into being legally through the Act of Parliament No 21 of 1964.
Since 1964 till date, the Nigerian Navy has had her birthdays in a ceremonious mode across board including the Central Naval Command, until COVID 19 reared its ugly head this year, making the yearly birthday celebration to be done in a low key.
Marking the end of the low key week-long celebration at the Central Naval Command with a ceremonial sunset, which saw the donation of palliatives to the host community among other skeletal activities, the Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Commanding, Yenagoa, Rear Admiral Saidu Garba, said that this year’s anniversary was a unique one as it came at a period when the nation and the world at large are going through trying times occasioned by the COVID 19 pandemic.
“Hence, the decision to have a low key anniversary to reflect the mood of the nation. As Navy, our strength has been that of collective will to defend the territorial integrity of our great nation Nigeria from the sea.”
The Nigerian Navy also said that it has assisted the civil authorities in fighting the Coronavirus pandemic at the maritime domain by ensuring that vessels that enter the country were properly checked and cleared before they berth, following the necessary COVID 19 protocols.
Garba said that the command participated actively in ensuring that it keeps to the directives of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces on the fight against COVID 19 pandemic.
The FOC stated: “We keep to the directives from the President and Commander-in-Chief by properly assisting the civil authority not only in controlling traffic but also in the maritime domain by ensuring that vessels that enter this country are properly cleared before they berth and we ensure that nobody enters the country without proper clearance following the necessary COVID 19 protocol.
“In that respect, apart from our operations out there, the Nigerian Navy has also commissioned Isolation Centre in Lagos, where we keep not only our personnel but all those other people that have COVID 19 and are in need of care.
“The service has endeavoured to accomplish this in the past years despite the numerous constraints faced. The reality on the ground suggests that we cannot rest on oars. Quite appropriately, as democracy continues to flourish in our country, Nigerians will continue to ask for not only accountability and transparency but also demanding for performance from a very important arm of service like ours.
“Therefore, the service cannot be found wanting in her core business to the nation and region the Gulf of Guinea.
“I’m pleased to announce that within five years, the Nigerian Navy conducted and participated in over 60 exercises and operations, some of which are ex TSARE TEKU, ex EAGLE EYE, Operation RIVER SWEEP, Operation CALM WATERS and operation SWIFT RESPONSE geared towards combating illicit activities in Nigeria territorial waters especially the back waters.
“Some combined exercises especially the back waters in Nigeria territorial waters such as ex OBANGAME EXPRESS, ex NEMO and operation JUNCTION RAIN were concluded in collaboration with regional and international Navies and other maritime stakeholders for good governance, law and order in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The Nigerian Navy instituted dedicated operations and initiatives to enhance its policing capacity towards the peaceful use of the nation’s maritime environment. These initiatives have engendered several recorded successes in the operations of the bases resulting in appreciative decline in the rate of successful pirate attacks.
“The Nigerian Navy performed credibly well in the fight against crude oil theft and illegal oil bunkering through operations conducted by operational bases. These activities were completed by swamp buggy operations in the areas where illegal refineries were discovered.
Also part of the weeklong activity was the donation of foodstuffs to Agudama Epie, the host community.
The Nigerian Navy said it was a move to ameliorate the economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic on its host communities.
The Navy noted that apart from its duty of protecting the waterways in the Niger Delta, as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, it would continue to partner communities within its areas of operations to foster better relationships.
Donating various food items as palliatives, including bags of rice, beans, yam and other food items, Garba, said the items were part of efforts to meet the community needs at this difficult time.
Garba said the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted people from going about their normal businesses, resulting to a lot of hardship to many Nigerians, including the poor and the less-privileged.
“The current lockdown in Bayelsa State has been a difficult time for many, especially those who live on daily earnings from small businesses, due to inability to go about business activities in the past weeks.
“Many households are faced with lack of food and other basic requirements in their homes. Taking into cognizance this unfortunate development, the Nigerian Navy, under the leadership of the Chief of
Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, directed the distribution of palliatives to vulnerable communities as part of the 2020 Nigerian Navy anniversary celebration.”