We must never forget why we have, and why we need our military. Our armed forces exist solely to ensure our nation is safe, so that each and every one of us can sleep soundly at night, knowing we have ‘guardians at the gate.’ – Allen West
The management of maritime defense in Nigeria is fraught with several challenges. These include the lack of political will, minimal naval awareness among others, but one very limiting factor is the issue of insufficient funding of the Nigerian Navy (NN).
Enormous resources are lost daily due to the inability of nations within the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) to adequately patrol their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), territorial waters and ports. This translates into huge financial losses to the GoG member nations hence the introduction of Regional Maritime Awareness Capability Centres (RMAC) in Nigeria and the Navy is embracing technologically sophisticated equipment such as AIS and ground based radar and sensor equipment in its battle to contain piracy.
At the regional level, the Nigerian Navy also contributes to combating piracy within the GoG by promoting and contributing to Joint Training Exercises among Navies of the GoG states. Recently, the Nigerian Navy conducted the first ever sub-regional training exercise of its kind devoid of foreign sponsorship code named Exercise OPIA TOHA from 26-27 May 16. The Exercise Objective was set against the background of combating the challenges and emerging threats in the GoG through fostering of regional cooperation amongst states and in collaboration with friendly navies.
In other to increase deterrence, the NN continues to maintain it presence at sea. This remains the main thrust of current endeavours in combating all forms of illegalities in the GoG. In order to achieve this, efforts are in progress to acquire additional ships, including Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for sustained maritime operations from foreign shipbuilders.
There are more lofty initiatives of the Nigerian Navy but insufficient funding has been the bane of the Navy’s ability to optimally perform her constitutional roles.
A review of the “Endorsed Nigerian Navy Transformation Plan 2011-2020” indicates that NN strategist have covered the field and made provisions for a NN that appreciates the current and potential threats of our maritime domain, provides for the three core functions of the Navy (military, policing and diplomatic), provides for the expected flexibility which can accommodate the fast changing world of military infrastructure and equipment and a Navy set to become a sea power that will sustain maritime safety and security which are prerequisites for economic growth.
The decision makers in National Security Council and members of our legislature have to be sagacious about funding the NN. Records over the years show that the amounts budgeted by the NN for its operations have always been left in the lurch. Budgetary allocations are usually made with wide gaps between NN Budget proposals and the eventual appropriation.
Furthermore, the appropriated amounts in the budget are seldom fully released. The deficiency in funding of the NN hinders the effective capacity building essential for the effective management of maritime defence necessary for the economic prosperity of Nigeria.
This fact can be further buttressed by the recent Petroleum Oil and Lubricant requirement for sustaining one Capital Ship, NNS OKPABANA and 8 operational ships at sea for 7 days. The cost of POL was ₦136,841,142:00. Projected for 260 days to cover a year, it will translate to ₦5,082,671,000:00 as shown in Fig 9 below. It would be observed that to keep 9 operational ships at sea to combat effectively criminal activities within our maritime domain, POL alone would cost the sum of ₦5,082,671,000:00 less other expenses. These include; ammunition replenishment, spare parts, cost of maintenance, medication, personnel training cost amongst others.
As the Russian President, Vladimir Putin puts it; military might is the guarantor of a nation’s security and independence. Hence, the need to be adequately funded.