UPDATE: Senate moves to save Nigerian Navy Flagship, NNS ARADU, urges presidency to take over

By Haruna Salami

Senate at its plenary on Wednesday resolved to urge the presidency to take over the Nigerian Navy Flagship, NNS ARADU as a “presidential asset” and resuscitate it for Nigeria’s national security, safety and pride.

In addition, the Senate urged the Nigerian Navy, NN to convoke a roundtable of all stakeholders such as Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS) with a view to fashioning out a funding regime to facilitate the re-fitting and refurbishing of NNS ARADU to carry out its onerous role in servicing Nigeria’s maritime domain.

This was sequel to a motion of “urgent need to resuscitate the Nigerian Navy Flagship “NNS ARADU” sponsored by Senator Sekibo George Thompson (Rivers East).

Speaking with journalists at the National Assembly, Thompson said “nations that have maritime domain and have navies have what they call their Navy Flagship. If you  don’t have Flagship, it is like you don’t have a strong Navy”.

He said the NNS ARADU is like a home and it can fight in the sea and in the air, but unfortunately, it is grounded.

“To refit it will cost about $200 million and to buy a new one will cost $700 million”, adding “the choice is for Nigeria, but we cannot continue without a flagship”.

He said the Navy Flagship is equal to Air Force 1, which the president uses, but unfortunately before the inception of democratic government, it was returned to the Nigerian Navy.

Thompson said with the “envelope budgeting system, the Navy doesn’t have the financial muscle just to even maintain, not to talk of repairing it.

“The budgetary system does not allow such huge amount of money, unless the presidency takes it over”, he said.

“The irony is that about the same year or period ARADU was purchased, seven other nations also got one each and their vessels are still moving in top gear”.

According to the motion, the Senate is “aware that the Nigerian Navy flagship, NNS ARADU, is one of the first of the MEKO 360 general purpose frigates built by one of the biggest shipbuilders in Germany and commissioned on 22 February 1982.

“Aware that NNS ARADU is the largest ship in the Nigerian Navy fleet with a length of 125.6-metres (412ft 1in) and as a general-purpose frigate

NNS ARADU is an all-purpose fighting ship capable of undertaking the following missions alone or in concert with other units: “Sustained an independent blue water patrol over a range of 6,500 miles (10,5500km), gunfire support to friendly forces operating up to 16Km from the coast.

Others are “air defense of self and cooperating forces up to a range of 13Km, anti-submarine warfare (short range or extended range using helicopter borne torpedoes), electronic warfare (intercepting and jamming), anti-ship warfare missile attacks against surface units up to a range of 120Km mine laying and, airborne or surface Search and Rescue”.

The Senate knew that the capabilities of the Frigate ensured the Nigerian Navy continued to reach out to blue waters with the appropriate ships in terms of firepower, extended operational range and enhanced surveillance and capability.

Since NNS ARADU entered Nigerian Navy service, she has taken part in major naval exercises, fleet reviews and diplomatic cruises. She played a prominent part in “Operation Seadog” in 1985 and Operation Odion in 1987.

It has also undertaken extensive diplomatic visits to countries like Gabon, Congo, Zaire, Equatorial Guinea and many European countries.

The ship participated in joint exercises with visiting ships of the German, Indian, French and the Brazilian navies.

The Senate regretted that in 1987, barely five years after her commissioning, NNS ARADU ran aground twice and was involved in a major collision and underwent a significant local refit in 1991 at the Nigerian Navy Dockyard, Wilmot Point, Lagos; ; Aware that, in 1997, She sailed to Monrovia, Liberia where she participated in ECOMOG Operation for over 6 months and steamed back to Lagos with her engines despite losing one generator; Recalls that NNS ARADU participated in the 200th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Trafalgar in the UK in 2005 and embarked on the hazardous trans-Atlantic voyage in 2007 to participate in Brazil Bicentenary celebration;

In 1994 NNS ARADU experienced degradation of machinery and equipment post refit trials and was assessed as Beyond Economical Repair in 1995.

In addition to report, while berthed in Naval Dockyard experienced rough weather and severe turbulence between 31 May to 2 June 2014 which caused the already weakened ship serious damage that resulted in flooding and near sinking;

The Senate regretted that once “a pride of Nigerian Navy and the nation” is not operational, in deplorable condition, and would require life extension refit.