Chinese PLA Navy sends a flotilla to make a port call at the Nigerian commercial capital Lagos discussions on maritime security underway
Three Chinese Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) Navy warships docked at the Nigerian Naval Base Apapa on a rare port call, Sunday, signalling growing ties between the two countries.
The flotilla led by the guided missile destroyer Nanning was accompanied by the frigate Sanya, along with a supply ship, Weishanhu, on a show of force.
The Nigerian Navy has expressed willingness to work with China to tackle maritime security threats and maintain stability in the Gulf of Guinea according to a Chinese Embassy Abuja statement.
The outgoing Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral JD Akpan receiving the Chinese flotilla commander
The Gulf of Guinea, described by the International Maritime Bureau as one of the world’s most dangerous and important shipping routes, covers 11,000sq km (4,247sq miles) and stretches from Angola to Senegal.
Since 2021, piracy cases have been on the decline due to cooperation among countries in the region and deployments of foreign naval ships, according to the United Nations Security Council.
Two of those countries, Angola and Nigeria, are among China’s top oil suppliers. Major Chinese oil explorer CNOOC Ltd also engages in deep-sea production off the coast of Nigeria.
In January, Nigeria opened a billion-dollar Chinese-built deep seaport in Lagos. State-owned China Harbour Engineering Co and the Singapore-based Tolaram group have a joint 75 percent stake in the new Lekki deep sea port, one of the region’s biggest.
Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria Cui Jianchun called the project a “game changer”.
There has also been speculation the Gulf of Guinea could offer a base for China’s military. Last year, American defence officials expressed concern that such a base, possibly in Equatorial Guinea, could threaten US national security.
In 2017, China opened its first overseas naval base in Djibouti, one of the world’s most important choke points for maritime trade, fanning concern that Beijing might set up more regional “logistics facilities” as its military develops the capacity to operate thousands of kilometres from home.
Over the last three decades, China has widened its influence in almost every African nation through investment, trade and loans.
The Chinese warships will remain in port till Thursday.
Akowe with reports from Lagos