Prof. Mike Ozekhome, human rights lawyer has disclosed that the Nigerian Navy, traditional rulers, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and others are responsible for crude oil theft in Nigeria.
Ozekhome made this known when speaking as one of the panelists on the theme: “The Impact of Maritime Security Threats on the Nigerian Economy: Nigerian Navy Perspective” at the ongoing 63rd Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Wednesday, in Abuja.
According to him, the Nigerian Navy cannot claim ignorance about the movement of stolen crude oil in Nigeria, as it is equipped with sophisticated technology and has the primary responsibility of safeguarding the territorial waters of the country.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria emohasised that government officials are responsible for crude oil theft and piracy in Nigeria. He compared the situation to a non-state actor becoming more powerful than the state itself.
He said, “The people stealing the oil are government officials in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, challenging the Nigerian Navy and others to name those behind the crude oil theft so that they could be shamed and prosecuted.
Ozekhome called for the deployment of “strong technology” to monitor and stop crude oil theft and piracy in Nigeria, emphasising the need to recruit more Nigerian youths to provide the technology solutions needed to handle this challenge.
He suggested the implementation of serious legal reform to put stiffer punishment for crude oil theft to act as a deterrent to others, as well as the legalization of the illegal refineries frequently being destroyed in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
Commander Obiora Bede Anyikwa noted that Nigeria has been removed from the list of piracy-prone countries because of the efforts of the Navy.
He however emphasised in his paper that crude oil theft, smuggling, and illegal refineries as major security threats to Nigeria’s maritime environment.
Corroborating the statement of Ozekhome, Anyikwa highlighted that the actions of non-state actors undermine the performance of security agencies.
To improve operational efficiency, the Navy Commander called for the upgrade of the maritime domain awareness capability. He additionally noted that the Nigerian Navy lawyers should be approved to prosecute maritime offenders.
Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan Navy’s Director of Information, was not available to respond to these allegations.
Asari Dokubo, a Niger Delta leader and ex-agitator, recently alleged that the Nigerian Navy is behind crude oil theft in Nigeria.
He claimed that 99 percent of oil theft in the South-South region can be traced to the Nigerian military, specifically the Army and the Navy.
However, Ayo-Vaughan, in response to the allegations, challenged Dokubo to produce evidence and reveal the names of officers involved in crude oil theft. He described the allegations as spurious and unguarded.
Ayo-Vaughan said that the Navy is working with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited to remedy the situation.
He said, “Foremost of these mutual efforts is the planned return of the ‘Fisicalisation’ process, which was stopped in the late 1980s, whereby personnel of the Navy as at then, will now again be present at offshore oil loading terminals/platforms to physically sight the meter reading at the point of loading of crude oil to tankers at sea,” he said.
‘The first set of naval personnel to soon commence this task was sponsored by NNPCL and trained in the UAE and at Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State,” he said.
EnergyDay gathered that the Navy had since 1 April 2022 launched Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO (OPDDB) in Onne, Rivers State address issues of crude oil theft, rampant illegal artisan refineries, and illegal oil bunkering amongst other criminalities in the creeks.