This signaled the start of a potential naval arms race with a re-defined strategic architecture in West Africa.In response the Nigerian Navy instituted it’s own 5 years Security Architecture that placed premuim on information gathering and Network Centric capabilities. In 2010 Nigeria took delivery of two ATR-42 MARITIME PATROL Planes.
The most sophisticated ISR gathering platforms currently in operation in Africa. Nigeria’s actions brought a coherent military-security framework into life, highlighting issues which are vital to Nigeria’s Naval primacy in the Gulf of guinea in a way in which some earlier boundary disputes were not.
Granted, Equitorial Guinea is a small country compared to Nigeria, and of course will not supplant the Nigerian navy in primacy for now. Capabilities take years to develop; intent can change in moments. But Nigeria must address the fast changing realities in the Gulf of Guinea, which has supplanted the Somali coast as the piracy headquarters of the world.
It’s 1991 again, but with a stronger Equitorial Guinea. This means that Nigeria’s naval defense planners must develop capabilities over the long term to be ready for any rapidly emerging eventuality. In the Gulf of Guinea context, Equatorial Guinea has in fact been quietly shaping its defense capabilities over the past few years, particularly as its offshore energy assets come on stream and produce revenue surpluses.
Equatorial Guinea has announced it intends to be a major player in Gulf of Guinea and that it has the capacity to influence sea lane security to and from Nigeria and Cameroon and that it will not be a passive participant in the region. A number of incidents have occurred in recent years to indicate that Equatorial Guinea forces – components of the Guardia Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial (GNGE) will take aggressive action with regard to what they feel might be penetrations or violations of Equatorial Guinea’s sovereign space or economic zone.
We can remember all too well the furor that arose between Nigeria and the United States in 2000, when it was revealed that the U.S was secretly undertaking a program geared at Equatorial Guinea military expansion, while at the same time calling for the Nigerian government to “democratize and professionalism the Nigerian Army by cutting its active duty force to half, even while it was working on a contract initiated with Equatorial Guinea to help train and expand the Equatorial Guinea military.
This revelation did not go well with the Nigerian government, especially as the Nigerian Army had just emerged from successfully fighting a range of wars and peacekeeping operations in Africa with few resources and yet remarkable success.
Nonetheless, Pres. Obasanjo, unwilling to alienate the Clinton Administration, dismissed Gen. Malu rather than resist the demands of the United States.
Now, however after encircling Nigeria with six Reaper Drone bases that surprisingly unable locate and identify Boko Haram terrorists for 5 years now, the United States is once again engaged in helping a state which has, arguably, potential concerns with Nigeria in the naval domain.
The U.S military initiative with Equatorial Guinea is maritime oriented. The U.S is providing personnel in security, search and rescue, detainee processing, information technology, logistics/maintenance, and administration.
This task order is the first part of a multi-year contract, with a potential value of approximately $250-million. The program is designed to provide nationwide coastal surveillance coverage for Equatorial Guinea. Jim Jackson, general manager for the MPRI International Group, noted:
“This important contract award represents a strategic opportunity to contribute not only to the vital maritime security of Equatorial Guinea, but also provides a thoughtful approach toward establishing long-term stability for the entire region.”
This is serious stuff. The contract envisions completion of a surveillance site network and operations centers in Equatorial Guinea within three years. This would be followed up by two years of sustainment and maintenance support for an estimated contract total of five years. In fact, the emphasis of the contract – given the hiring pattern implies a greater emphasis on physical security, rather than merely the integrated surveillance system, although that is clearly part of the program.
We talking American boots on the ground in the Gulf of Guinea. The U.S/Equatorial Guinea program includes the construction of AIS (automatic identification system), radar, and command and control. The program could expand to include L3’s Raytheon/Beech King Air-based aerial surveillance systems, as well as light patrol vessels.
Now, the Nigerian Navy is not particularly lagging behind in this endeavour. In 2014 Nigeria began looking at an integrated national surveillance and response system, linked through a command and control function with all the Armed Services, the Intelligence Community (IC). In 2015 the Nigerian Navy incoprated the Falcon Eye Martime surveillance System, one of the most sophisticated Maritime surveillance Platform in Africa.
Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Gabon, and São Tomé and Príncipé all that they have common security threats, quite apart from any potential friction between them, and with other neighbors such as Cameroon which, thanks to Obasanjo has blocked the Nigerian Navy’s access to the Atlantic ocean in the east.
Significantly, and without any increase in budget, the Nigerian Navy literally “bootstrapped” its way back into a reasonable operational capability over recent years. It recently took delivery of two Stealth Offshore Patrol Vessels from China, several Patrol Craft from Israel, rebuilding ships which had been thought to have been beyond salvage and expanded its Maritime Domain Awareness system with sophisticated sensoa
As a result, and without fanfare, the Nigerian Navy has re-emerged as a factor in the Gulf of Guinea region.Nigeria, however, faces a far greater challenge than Equatorial Guinea. Its coastline and offshore facilities are in a far more complex situation than those of Equatorial Guinea, and the volume of facilities, pipelines, and traffic are far greaterWhereas the Equatorial Guinea forces have been growing, commensurate with the financial surpluses generated by energy exports for years now, the Nigerian Military have for years been delibrately underfunded.
Thanks to Former Pres. Olusegun Obasanjo, although once a military head of state and a former Army general, he gave up the Bakassi Peninsula without consulting the Nigerian Senate and fully embraced the US Clinton Administration’s view that the Nigerian military should be suppressed and kept on a reduced budget.
In 2016 President Buhari ordered the Nigerian Navy to draft the framework for a Gulf of Guinea Commission to begin developing offshore security modalities from the immediate Gulf of Guinea region down to Angola and South Africa. It is noteworthy that the Nigerian Navy’s Naval blockade of the Gambia in 2017 was borne out of the new naval framework that emphasized the use of the Nigerian Navy in a proactive way in pursuing the nation’s national interest.
Equatorial Guinea has expanded its military capabilities considerably in recent years. During the past decade, the EGN has obtained two lightly armed (Typhoon G mounting of an Oerlikon 20mm cannon with electro-optical guidance) 24.8m and Shaldag Mk.II fast patrol vessels aquired from Israel. The EQN also has an Air Wing in the form of two new Enstrom 480B Guardian turbine helicopters which are used on maritime duties.
There is nothing in the Nigerian military’s arsenal that can match these aircraft, until that is the delivery of the JF-17 Multirole Fighter. The Air Wing also has two Czech Aero L-39 advanced jet trainer/strike aircraft, and possibly one An-26 transport aircraft.
Nigeria though have an unassailable advantage in manpower and training. Virtually all of EGN platforms rely on foreign aircrew and maintenance personnel, and mostly operate from Malabo airfield, where the bulk of the Air Wing operates. Much of the Equatorial Guinea hydrocarbon wealth has been derived from fields around Bioko Island, the seat of Government and the capital, Malabo. However, the mainland region borders at the Atlantic on areas claimed by Cameroon and Gabon. A dispute between Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea over an island off the mouth of the Ntem River in Cameroon remains unresolved.
A dispute with Gabon over sovereignty over the Gabon-occupied Mbane area and its associated islands is under United Nations mediation.The potential for disputes over rights to the coastal waters remains high, and could lead to confrontation in the oil and gas producing Corisco Bay area. Equatorial Guinea faces a significant geographic challenge to its limited, albeit growing, maritime and air forces. It is a challenge which can only be met through the application of tight coordination and high technology.
As well, it will require significant support from Equatorial Guinea’s very limited policy planning and diplomatic resources. Indeed, the lack of forward-looking planning and diplomatic resources makes the likelihood of clashes over disputed areas and assets more likely, particularly if accidental or provocative cross-border movements by neighbors stimulate reaction by Equatorial Guinea forces.
Nigeria, by contrast, has a more concentrated area of concern around the Niger Delta, but still has a large exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to monitor as does Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon. But the Nigerian situation has greater challenges because of the complexity of the onshore energy assets, including pipelines, coupled with an historical pattern of ethnic and political differences, both within the Niger Delta region and with regard to the Delta states’ relationship with the Nigerian Federation.
Nigeria, unlike Equatorial Guinea, has developed a defense and security framework over five decades of independence and a century of modern military structures as a component of the British military system.
The current dynamic, however, has been characterized by rising capabilities and ambitions by the Equatorial Guinea forces, and severely constrained capabilities in the Nigerian Armed Forces due to budgetary constraints and Continent-wide military responsibilities in peacekeeping.
Nigeria has, in the past decade, begun a process of using technology in its civil sector particularly telecommunications – to leapfrog moribund and paralyzed structures. Nigeria’s revived approach to integrated, nationallevel real-time security intelligence coupled to command and control helps re-assert Abuja’s strategic leadership in the region. Despite its population size at around 200 million – Nigeria has, like most sub-Saharan African states, devoted relatively little of its GDP to defense.