IT was pomp and carnival as the new Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS), ‘Thunder’, berthed on African soil after many weeks of sojourn on the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific.
The Ship, which was transferred from the United States of America’s (USA) Coast Guard to the Nigerian Navy, was acquired to fight insurgence of sea criminals, especially on the Gulf of Guinea and other troubled waters in Africa.
Thunder was acquired from the USA on May 13, 2011 by the Navy. After the installation of some security equipment, the ship was tested and confirmed ready to go to sea before it left the USA in October heading for Nigeria.
The Ship and her 150 officers and Ratings on board was said to have sailed through Mexico to the Pacific Ocean and the famous Panama Canal and Trinidad and Tobago considered to be friendly countries to Nigeria.
She and her crew left the Port of Spain in Trinidad and crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Dakar, Senegal, where Nigeria is presently receiving encomiums for ability to own a massive war ship such as ‘Thunder’.
A Major in the Senegalese Navy told The Guardian that ‘Nigeria has always proved to us that she is the giant of Africa’.
“I am hoping and praying that in my life-time, our country would own a Ship like this and I would like to be the Commanding Officer (CO) of such a ship. This war vessel is intimidating. Nigeria has always proved to the rest of us that she remains the giant of Africa; we are not surprised,” he said.
The warship was received in Dakar on behalf of President Jonathan and the Chief of the Naval Staff by the Nigerian Ambassador to Senegal, Mrs. Azuka Emejuru, and the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogbor, at the Senegalese Naval Base. Thereafter, diplomats of others countries including Ambassadors of South Africa to Senegal, Sam Kotane, Yakubu Abdullai of Ghana, Koe Ntonga of Cameroun, among others, had a feast on board the ship in honour of Nigeria.
Addressing the 150 officers and men who have been in USA for over six months on training on board the ship, the FOC Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ogbor said: “I am proud of you and everyone in Nigeria is proud of this ship. The only way we can sustain the smart look is to sustain the maintenance culture already existing. This ship would assist in fighting illegalities on our waters in Africa.”
NNS Thunder is a 378 feet war ship, which was re-launched into the United States Coast Guard in 1989 after Fleet Renovation and Modernisation (FRAM) programme at Bath Ironworks Shipyard in Portland, Maine.
The warship, which can stay on high sea for 45 days without berthing to refuel, can also conveniently carry 167 personnel on board.
The ship is billed to leave Senegal on December 27 to Tema, Ghana, another ally of Nigeria. Thereafter, she and her crew will proceed to the Nigerian Naval base in Apapa, where it will be received by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ola Saad Ibrahim.