The history of hydrography in Nigeria is inseparably linked to colonial maritime interest. Prior to independence, the role of hydrographic surveying in Nigeria’s waters was an exclusive preserve of the Admiralty. Following the establishment of the Nigerian Naval Force (NNF) in 1956, the first Naval Legislation passed by the House of Representatives, as the Nigerian Naval Ordinance on 1 August 1956, charged the NNF with the responsibility of conducting ‘Hydrographic survey to the extent that the Government of the Federation may require’ among others. After independence in 1960, the Act of Parliament of 1964 charged the NN with the responsibility of hydrographic surveying and charting of Nigeria’s waters among other responsibilities. This led to the establishment of the NNHD in the early 70s with the ultimate goal of meeting the statutory role of hydrographic surveying and charting of Nigeria’s waters.
In order to ensure that the newly established Department develops in accordance with the international best practice, a team of naval officers from the Indian Navy (IN) were seconded to the NNHD on 12 November 1975, with Commander PP Nandi (IN) appointed as the first Hydrographer of the NN. On 31 May 1976, Nigeria joined the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) in order to demonstrate her commitment to providing accurate hydrographic services for international and local shipping. The collaboration between the NNHD and the National Hydrographic Service of India led to the training of the first batch of NN hydrographic personnel that later took over from the Indians. Consequently Lt Cdr MAB Elegbede became the first indigenous Hydrographer of the NN. Further collaboration with the IHO and other Hydrographic Offices like the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the USA among others, led to the training of more NN officers in the field of Hydrography.
The need to further develop the Department led to the acquisition of a number of survey vessels, like NNS PETREL, PENELOPE, PATHFINDER and LANA. In addition, the NN Hydrographic School was established in 1981 to cater for the human capital development of the Department.
It is worth mentioning that since inception, the NNHD has conducted a number of hydrographic surveys independently and in collaboration with local and international hydrographic offices within Nigerian waters for the purpose of providing quality hydrographic services to mariners operation in Nigeria’s waters. As the IHO designated National Coordinator for the dissemination of Maritime Safety Information (MSI) to NAVAREA II Region in Breast France, the NNHO has established this portal for collation and timely dissemination of MSI to mariners operating within NAVAREA II. The NNHO also liaises with the NAVAREA II coordinator in Brest, France for collation of other MSI promulgated by other nations within NAVAREA II and dissemination of same information for the attention of mariners within Nigeria’s waters. This is in fulfillment of Phase 1 of the IHO Capacity Building Strategy.
The NNHD is organized into the Hydrographic Office, Hydrographic School and the survey fleet. The Hydrographic Office, headed by the Hydrographer, is in charge of the NNHD and responsible to the Chief of the Naval Staff, through the Chief of Training and Operations on all matters pertaining to defence and civil hydrography in Nigeria. He exercises professional control of the Hydrographic school and the survey vessels for training of personnel and the conduct of surveys respectively.
The principal functions of the department include: Hydrographic/Oceanographic surveys, Charts productions, Tidal observations, production of Tidal prediction Tables for Nigerian Ports, coordination of all national hydrographic survey in Nigeria and dissemination of maritime safety to mariners operating within Nigeria’s maritime domain and NAVAREA II Region.
The NNHO derives its functions from the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 and Armed Forces Act Cap A20 Laws of the Federation of the Nation, which vested the responsibility of charting and coordination of all national hydrographic survey in Nigeria to the NN. This responsibility was amplified by the Nigerian Navy Order 16 of 1988 (NNO 16/88) to include the following:
- Hydrographic and oceanographic surveying matters for national and defence requirements.
- Superintendence of hydrographic and oceanographic surveys in Nigerian waters, including the Exclusive Economic Zone.
- Superintendence of all land surveying and dredging matters within the Nigerian Navy.
- Acting as the sole National Authority on hydrographic, charting and tidal matters.
- Evolving a national survey programme for Nigeria’s coast, harbours and all approaches, in addition to particular defence requirements.
- The delineation/demarcation of maritime boundaries of Nigeria.
- Planning and coordination of appointments, training and career planning of personnel (Naval/Civilian) into hydrographic and oceanographic specializations.
- Supervision and provision of training facilities and equipment at the hydrographic school.
- Superintendence of the formulation and review of syllabus for various courses in hydrographic school.
- Planning and coordination of the acquisition of hydrographic and oceanographic vessels (ships/crafts/boats), including procurement of their equipment as well as replacement/modernization, accounting and repairs of such equipment.
- Publication and distribution of nautical charts and publications, including Nigerian Tide Tables.
- Provision, custody and distribution of navigational equipment and publications in the Nigerian Navy.
- Promulgation of Radio Navigational Warnings and Coordination, at national level, of Navigational Area Warning Systems.
- Meteorology in the Nigerian Navy.
- Liaison with other local and international mapping, hydrographic and oceanographic organizations for the purpose of maintaining local and international standards.
- To represent the Federal Government of Nigeria in international bodies and forums on hydrographic and oceanographic matters.
- Other duties allotted to the department by the Chief of the Naval Staff.