The sea is home to over 70 percent of the wealth of nations, hence the popular quote attributed to the English statesman, soldier, spy, writer, poet, and explorer, Mr. Walter Raleigh who opined that “Whoever commands the sea, commands the trade; whoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world and consequently the world itself”.
It is a fact of history that from the era of primitive communalism to the 21st century, where capitalism and socialism are still at loggerhead, the human struggle over who controls the global space economically had been between the ancient divide of the tribe of crops farmers and pastoral farmers.
It is on the premise of the foregoing strive that the incumbent Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral AZ Gambo at the recently concluded Chief of the Naval Staff Annual Conference 2021 in Kano posited that nations all over the world strive to ensure that vital interests critical to their survival are adequately secured.
He noted that for littoral states, the sea is of vital interest and it is critical to their existence, adding, “this is because the sea/ocean which constitutes about two-thirds of the earth’s surface area holds immense resources that are continuously being exploited”.
He said, “The sea has remained a medium of global trade as both littoral and land-linked countries depend on it for easier and cheaper haulage and inter-connectivity with other states. The global economy depends largely on the ocean, with the ocean-based economic sector estimated at between $3-6 Trillion with more than 3 billion people relying on the oceans for their livelihood (UNCTAD, 2016). The strategic value attached to the sea and resources therein usually heightens the exposure of littoral nations to maritime security breaches.
“In order to ensure that the Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOC) are secured and maritime resources protected, most littoral states establish maritime forces such as navies, coast guard and marine police amongst others. These Maritime Law Enforcement Agencies (MLEA) help to prevent illegalities capable of hampering economic activities thereby promoting national development. National development involves an integrated process of building capacity in all the sectors in the nation, aimed at enhancing the well-being of the citizens. In the contemporary state system, development integrates the protection of core values as well as protecting and harnessing resources for the wellbeing of the people. Hence, littoral states integrate their maritime resource protection and maritime security efforts for effective policing of the maritime domain towards rapid national development”.
Drawing inference from credible and verifiable global data the CNS said, “In India, aside the primary role of safeguarding the vast India coastline of                 about 4,046 nautical miles against external aggression, the Indian Navy also safeguards the country’s energy security, as bulk of its oil supplies transit through the Indian Ocean which in recent years has witnessed a surge in the incidences of piracy (Susheel M, 2020). In addition, the Indian Navy contributes to national development through its indigenous ship building effort which in turn creates an ecosystem of smaller industrial enterprises. For instance, Project 17A frigates (Building of 7 Frigates) is expected to employ a workforce of about 4,500 workers annually within the yard and nearly 28,000 personnel per year as outsourced manpower from ancillary industries (Singh, 2019). This effort spurs economic growth and engenders industrialization in India. Similarly, South Africa has a coastline of about 1,619 nautical miles (www.gov.za). It is endowed with a lot of mineral resources and several aquatic mammals that attract tourists and generate substantial revenue. The protection of these resources by the South African Navy has improved economic growth of the country and enhanced national development especially in the fishing industry.
“Nigeria is a maritime nation with a vast coastline and a maritime domain that is endowed with hydrocarbons and other resources. The sea is the lifeblood of Nigeria’s economy, essentially, it serves as a medium for conveying the vast majority of her trade and many vital resources such as oil.
Incidentally, the sea is also being exploited by criminals and economic saboteurs thus inhibiting national development. Like most navies all over the world, the Nigerian Navy (NN) was established in 1956 to guarantee freedom of the seas in territorial and international waters under Nigeria’s maritime jurisdiction and influence. This maritime aspiration translates to peacetime and wartime roles with national security and national development implications. The NN also performs some non-military roles that invariably contribute to socio-economic activities and enhance national development”.
He said that the purpose of his paper was to create the desired awareness about the roles and efforts of the NN towards national development in Nigeria, noting, “I am motivated by the fact that this intellectual engagement would empower this Distinguished Audience to be able to contribute to the NN’s efforts for enhance national development. Saying that the paper will conceptualise the key variables, and highlight the history, roles and structure of the NN”.
 The CNS said that the overview of NN’s Geo-strategic maritime environment would be discussed before enumerating the threats to Nigeria’s maritime security and its implications on national development.
The paper he averred will consider the roles of the NN towards national development as well as the challenges of the NN towards enhancing national development, stressing that the presentation will proffer some policy options towards enhancing national development.
Vice Admiral Gambo said that the aim of his paper is to highlight the roles of the NN towards national development in Nigeria.
What then is national development? National Development according to Ball is to reduce poverty and ensure adequate standard of living for all members of the society” (Ball, 1988).
As he expounded, this involves meeting basic material needs such as food, housing, education, health and medical care, as well as certain non-material requirements such as the ability to participate in economic and political decisions affecting the course of one’s life.
For Amucheazi (1980), “development is realistically seen as a multi-dimensional process involving the totality of man in his political, economic, psychological and social realties among others”.  Development is a holistic phenomenon not a concept to be abridged in application or compartmentalized and approached as a uni-dimensional process. Essentially, it should be man-oriented and not institutional-oriented”.
He further posited that “if we focus our attention on the individual citizens we can then think of what he needs at a particular time; thus it means that national development has to be people-oriented with its focus on safeguarding human dignity”.
To this end the implications of maritime security threats to national development in Nigeria was considered under accrued revenue, economic inflation, marine environment and proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW).
According the CNS, “One of the implications of maritime security threats on national development is loss of revenue as a result of crude oil theft and other ancillary crimes. Illegal bunkering and crude oil theft are capable of denying the nation of the much-needed revenue from refined petroleum product marketing and crude oil lifting.
“For instance, the 2016 Budget which was aptly titled “Budget of Change” provided for aggregate expenditures of ₦6.06 trillion and planned to be largely funded by revenue from crude oil. However, crude oil theft and other related illegal petroleum activities created a loss of revenue resulting in a deficit of ₦2.2trillion that year. In recent years, the NN has been able to effectively reduce crude oil theft and other related vices through the implementation of various strategies which has resulted in more funds accruing to the Federal Government for socio economic development of our nation. Evidently, on 8 Aug 21, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in its Monthly Financial and Operations Report (MFOR) for the month of April 2021 stated that its revenue for the month of April when compared to March 2021 increased        by 17.73 per cent.
“Economic Inflation. The persistent threats of piracy and sea robbery has been responsible for increase in shipping charges and attendant increase in cost of imported goods as well as loss of profit from exported goods. Notably, this is a direct implication of the imposition of high tariffs and insurance premium on vessels involved in freighting and conveying Gulf of Guinea cargoes. The cumulative effect of high cost of goods with low purchasing power leads to economic inflation and negative development”.
The Naval Chief however, identified that the marine environment in the Niger Delta is characterised by activities which affects the environment.
“For instance, the operations of illegal refineries have severely impacted biodiversity, aesthetic scenery of the forest, regeneration of plant species and destruction of wildlife habitat as well as disruption of water cycle and loss of medicinal plant species. The resulting oil spills from vandalised pipes and wastes from thousands of makeshift refineries combine to degrade the environment causing land, sea and air pollution thereby impinging on public health. It also costs the government and other multinational companies billions of Naira that could have been used for other developmental projects to clean the spillage thereby depriving government of these resources for national development. The operation of illegal refineries has generated black soot and acid rain in some states in the Niger Delta, including health hazards such as asthma and skin rashes. However, the situation has greatly improved through concerted efforts taken to effectively curtail the operations of the illegal refineries. Recent report by NNPC indicates that there was a 34.29 per cent reduction in the number of pipeline points vandalised from 70 in March 2021 to 46 in April 2021,” the Navy Chief said.
While winding up his presentation, Vice Admiral Gambo said the strategic relevance of the nation’s maritime environment and the role it plays in national development and prosperity of the nation has been proven over the years.
He said: “The environment is however prone to diverse contemporary threats which portend dangers to the nation’s wellbeing and security if not curbed. Hence, the NN has made efforts to counter these threats through the maintenance of credible and effective presence within our maritime area to ensure a secured and conducive domain for enhanced national development.
“It is worthy to note that despite a harsh fiscal environment, the Federal Government has remained committed to enhancing the response capability of the NN through the acquisition of more patrol vessels and aircraft. Permit me to reiterate that the NN is proactive towards guaranteeing that the Nation’s maritime environment is safe and open to legitimate activities through the emplacement of appropriate strategies.
“As we strive to forge and leave a legacy of a formidable Navy that would continue to serve Nigeria’s interest, we are united in vision and purpose and we will not be deterred by challenges”.
This resolve he noted is anchored on the fact that the Nation’s maritime domain will continue to be of strategic importance due to its inherent resources and use for global trading activities.
In conclusion, the CNS reiterated the wisdom inherent in the words of one of the foremost American founding father, George Washington, who said that, “Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive and with it everything honourable and glorious”.

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