NNS OBUMA was originally named NNS NIGERIA and it is Nigeria’s first frigate. This private-design frigate was launched on 12 April 1965 and commissioned on 16 September 1965 as the Nigerian Navy’s flagship.
NNS OBUMA was originally named NNS NIGERIA and it is Nigeria’s first frigate. This private-design frigate was ordered from Wilton-Fijenoord shipyards in the Netherlands to serve as the Nigerian Navy’s flagship. It was constructed in Holland, launched on 12 April 1965 and commissioned on 16 September 1965. The ship’s first commander was Captain Nelson Bossman Soroh (who retired with the rank of Rear Admiral and served as Chief of Naval Staff).
Following the collapse of the bloody January 15th “Majors mutiny”, coup suspects were initially kept aboard the detention cell on NNS NIGERIA before being transferred to land based prisons (It was rumoured that Major General Ironsi, the Supreme Commander, slept aboard NNS Nigeria every night and returned to State House Marina in the mornings, for fear of being killed by either northern soldiers or Nzeogwu’s loyalists). During the last weekend of July 1966, it was NNS Nigeria under Soroh that provided offshore refuge to the late Brigadier B Ogundipe when discipline broke down completely following the “Northern counter coup”. Ogundipe subsequently transferred to the MV Aureol and left for the United Kingdom as Nigeria’s new High Commissioner, by sea.
The NNS NIGERIA overcame several serious attempts by secessionist sympathizers to sabotage it during the run up to hostilities in early 1967. This ship saw heavy use during the Biafran War, both as a blockade ship and as a makeshift transport. It subsequently took active part in the naval blockade of the Eastern Region in June and July 1967, during the opening phase of the civil war and the joint amphibious assaults on Bonny (July 1967) and Calabar (October 1967). On 5 January 1967, NNS NIGERIA was loaded with marines who were landed via the ship’s boats and other small craft in the area, to support Nigerian troops outside Bonny. This reinforcement was viewed as a critical success by the Nigerian army. Other ships involved were the NNS PENELOPE, NNS LOKOJA, NNS OGOJA, NNS BENIN, NNS ENUGU, MV Bode Thomas and MV King Jaja. The NNS NIGERIA in particular was credited with beating back a determined Biafran attempt to retake Bonny in late September 1967. She also gained international spotlight when she seized the Dutch ship MV Jozina (which became the NNS KWA RIVER). MV Jozina had unsuccessfully attempted to penetrate the blockade. In 1968, Nigeria was attacked by B-26 Invaders of the Biafran Air Force. The ship was not damaged. Nevertheless, at one difficult point during the breakout phase of the Calabar landing, the ground force commander, then Lt. Col. Benjamin Adekunle, stopped responding to signals from the NNS Nigeria requesting situation reports. In response to frantic inquiries from higher-ups in Lagos, then Captain Soroh sent a controversial signal to Supreme Headquarters that simply stated, “I wish I knew”.
In 1982 NNS OBUMA was decommissioned but recommissioned shortly thereafter, following an austere repair period at Lagos in Nigeria. All the anti-submarine weapons (ASW) systems were deleted at this time. By 1986 OBUMA had been reduced to a training vessel, again in poor condition. From then on out the ship’s condition progressively deteriorated. OBUMA had largely been abandoned by 2001, with the 40mm guns having been stripped off. The ship was last seen flying the Nigerian ensign in late 2005.
NNS OBUMA is presently being used as a training ship for the Marine Engineering School of the College.
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