Three Chinese naval vessels made a five-day stopover in the waters of Lagos, Nigeria's economic capital, on Sunday during a rare visit to the Gulf of Guinea, the Nigerian and Chinese authorities said on Monday.
"This is a friendly visit" aimed at "improving diplomacy" between China and Nigeria, Nigerian navy spokesman Rear Admiral Ayo-Vaughan told AFP on Monday.
One of the ships docked on Sunday at the Apapa port in Lagos, where a ceremony was held. The Chinese ambassador to Nigeria, Cui Jianchun, said that this "visit was a major event in recent years".
This event "testifies to a high level of trust" between the two countries, which will "strengthen" the ties between the two navies, particularly in terms of "jointly resolving regional security problems", he added, quoted in a statement published on the embassy's website.
A crucial maritime route bordering countries rich in hydrocarbons, the Gulf of Guinea, which stretches over 5,700 kilometres between Senegal and Angola, has for several years been the new black spot for global piracy, even if acts of piracy have recently slowed down.
China has very close economic and financial ties with Nigeria, Africa's most populous country. In particular, it has invested massively in infrastructure, such as the new deep-water port of Lekki, on the outskirts of Lagos.
When it comes to security cooperation, Nigeria, which is plagued by serious insecurity including piracy and jihadist conflict in the north-east, looks mainly to the United States, one of its main suppliers of military equipment.
Last year, US defence officials expressed concern about Chinese plans for a military base on the Atlantic coast of West Africa.