A naval fleet from China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has made a significant voyage to Nigeria, marking a rare visit by the Chinese military to Africa’s Atlantic coast. Led by the destroyer Nanning, the fleet arrived on Sunday, highlighting China’s ongoing efforts to expand its influence in the region.
The Chinese ambassador to Nigeria hailed this five-day visit as a milestone in the bilateral relationship between the two countries. In a statement issued by the Chinese embassy on Monday, the Nigerian navy also expressed its willingness to collaborate with China to address maritime security threats and maintain stability in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Chi Chun, said the visit of the delegation from China “is to deepen the relationship between the two countries and also seek improved cooperation with each other.
“This visit demonstrates the harmony and symphony between Nigeria and China,” he said.
The Chinese Navy Escort Task Group (ETG) 162, comprising the PLA destroyer Nanning, PLA frigate Sanya, and supply ship Weishanhu, arrived in Nigeria to enhance the cooperation and strengthen the ties between the two nations. This visit holds strategic significance for both parties.
Nanning (162) is a 7,500 ton Type 052DL destroyer of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, the ship was launched on 23 February 2019 at the Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, and commissioned on 12 April 2021.
Nanning in March carried out a joint naval exercise with Iranian and Russian warships in the Gulf of Oman, and then returned to its escort mission in the Gulf of Aden and waters off Somalia before heading to Nigeria.
Sanya (574) is a Type 054A frigate of the People’s Liberation Army Navy. She was commissioned on 30 November 2012. In June, Sanya was part of the 43rd Chinese naval escort taskforce that docked in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire’s economic powerhouse, for a four-day visit aimed at promoting goodwill.
China has been actively seeking to expand its presence in Africa, particularly in terms of trade, investment, and infrastructure development. The visit of the Chinese naval fleet to Nigeria demonstrates Beijing’s commitment to deepening its engagement with African countries, even extending its military cooperation.
China’s efforts to increase its economic and military footprint in Africa appear to be gaining momentum as Beijing intends to establish a military base in West Africa to counter the United States presence.
The Gulf of Guinea, a region known for its abundant oil resources, has been grappling with piracy, illegal fishing, and other maritime security challenges. Nigeria, being a prominent country in the region, has been at the forefront of efforts to combat these threats. By collaborating with China, Nigeria aims to bolster its maritime security capabilities and benefit from China’s expertise in naval operations.
Recent U.S. intelligence reports suggest China intends to establish its first permanent military presence on the Atlantic Ocean in Equatorial Guinea. US defence officials believe the Chinese want a base on the Atlantic coast where they can replenish naval combat units with fuel, ammunition, and consumables as well as create a facility where they can repair warships. Nevertheless, the US is determined to stop China’s naval expansion drive.
During the visit, the Chinese and Nigerian navies may hold a series of joint exercises and training drills, including anti-piracy drills and search and rescue exercises. The two sides also held talks on maritime security cooperation and exchanged views on regional security issues.
“During their period of stay, our men will be interacting, we will be having some sporting activities, exchange of mementos and gifts.” Chun said.
This visit also provides an opportunity for both countries to strengthen their diplomatic ties and explore avenues for future collaboration. The Chinese fleet’s presence in Nigeria sends a clear message of China’s intent to play a more active role in ensuring regional stability and security.
As the Chinese naval fleet concludes its visit to Nigeria after five days, the positive exchanges and discussions between the two nations pave the way for enhanced cooperation in various fields. The visit further underscores China’s growing influence and engagement in Africa’s Atlantic region, setting the stage for deeper collaboration between China and Nigeria in the future.
The Chinese navy’s visit to Nigeria also comes at a time when the Gulf of Guinea is fighting maritime security threats, including piracy, armed robbery at sea, and illegal oil bunkering. The Chinese navy’s presence in the region is seen as a way to help Nigeria and other countries in the region to address these threats.
The visit of the Chinese naval fleet to Nigeria is a positive development for the bilateral relationship between the two countries. It is a sign of China’s growing commitment to Africa and its willingness to cooperate with African countries on security issues. The visit is also a boost for the Nigerian navy, which is facing growing maritime security threats. The joint exercises and training drills between the two navies will help to improve the Nigerian navy’s capabilities and its ability to respond to these threats.
Similarly, last month a Spanish warship named ESPS Audaz docked in Lagos to reinforce the military ties between Nigeria and Spain and deliver defence diplomacy.
Audaz, constructed by Navantia, is one of the four OPVs (Offshore Patrol Vessels) built for the Spanish Navy under the extension of “1st series navy ships”.