Serial negligence of security institutions, inadequate number of patrol ships, dilapidated equipment and the desperation of some Nigerians to make a living out of crime were yesterday identified as critical factors responsible for the upsurge in illegal oil bunkering in Nigeria.
Also Thursday, fresh facts emerged on the recent arrest of two foreign ships suspected to be involved in illegal oil bunkering in Nigeria’s territorial waters.
The Nigeria Navy said that contrary to the information in the public domain, one of the ships named MT Vanessa had no crude oil cargo in it as at the time it was impounded by naval personnel. The earlier report said the vessel had 8.5million barrels of crude oil.
The flag of the vessel, the Nigerian Navy said was Belgium and not France while it had a fifteen man crew made up of six Romanians and nine Filipinos.
These revelations came as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Olusheyi Petinrin and the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ola Saad Ibrahim appeared before the Joint Committee on Petroleum (Upstream) and Navy where they gave some insights into the challenges security agencies face in combating crude oil theft in the coastal areas of the country.
In a presentation before the lawmakers, the naval chief said that the large expanse of the Nigerian territorial waters and inadequate number of ships to patrol the vast coastline has been a major challenge to the Navy.
Vice Admiral Ola Saad Ibrahim disclosed that the. Navy had always had difficulties patrolling the country’s territorial waters spanning across 84,000 square nautical miles and having an oil pipeline network stretching across 6,000 miles.
“The ships we have are tired old war horses that are dilapidated beyond economic repairs. This is due to serial negligence of national security institutions over the years. The House Committee on Navy is aware of the state of the Navy. In other climes, the Navy is supposed to take delivery of new ships almost every year.
“For the Nigerian Navy to be efficient, we must talk about recapitalisation. In simple terms, we need to change the face of the Navy by buying new and more vessels for our operations. NNS Thunder, the latest in the fleet which acquired from the United States is forty three years old. We need a renewal of our vessels that are largely old,” he said.
Ibrahim said the challenges of the Nigerian Navy has been further compounded by the activities of some unpatriotic Nigerians who live off stolen crude oil and are prepared to continue with it as a business till death.
In a separate presentation,the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Olusheyi Petinrin said the security agencies have been working hard to combat the menace of illegal oil bunkerers operating in the country.
He said going by the statistics made available to security agencies by the Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS), crude oil theft which hovered around nine million barrels per month as at January last year has decline to about three million barrels per month after the inauguration of a special task force on the issue.
According to Petinrin, the security agencies have commenced the registration of all engine powered boats and barges in the coastal areas of the country to enable government track and identify each of them.
Beyond the registration of the vessels, security agencies have also begun to capture the biometric data of their owners to ensure that any vessel involved in any illegal business could be traced to its owner. The Navy, he said , has also begun to mount house boats at the mouths of the various creeks to serve as surveillance posts against those local vessels that usually transport stolen crude oil to ocean going vessels anchored on the high seas.
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