Before We Crucify The Nigerian Navy On Oil Theft

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By Goodluck Amuna

There is an interesting debate about oil theft in the country, but little emphasis has been placed on the quantity of crude oil produced in the country. I some issues with the narrative on crude oil theft. I believe its one-sided. The solution to this problem would be for the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited to conveniently provide accurate data on the amount of crude oil produced in the country.  

I marvel when I read stories about the complicity of the Nigerian Navy in crude oil theft in the country. Even though I am aware these stories are propaganda, it is imperative for issues to be put in proper perspective. As a concerned stakeholder, I am privy to some mind-boggling information on the oil and gas sector issues and the attendant implications for the country’s economy. It is a regime of impunity.

Unfortunately, the Nigerian Navy is the sacrificial lamb because its operations are on the sea. But only a few know about the vested interests in that sector, both in government and outside government. It is so bad that sanitizing that sector would be a full-fledged war. The beneficiaries dot the nook and cranny of the country. They have their contacts everywhere; the more you see, the less you understand. 

Most unfortunate is that the Nigerian Navy is bearing the brunt of their actions for the audacity to confront them and end the illicit trade. The Nigerian Navy has lost several officers in the line of duty. Nobody talks about that. What has been propagated in the media is that the Nigerian Navy is complicit in crude oil theft. This is an anomaly.

There are pertinent questions I would like to ask. One of them is the identity of the owners of the private security guards contracted by the government. What have they done in terms of protecting oil assets? Are they complicit? Answers must be provided by the relevant authorities. There are a lot of complications in the crude oil regime, and to resolve these complications, the country must get it right regarding our production capacity. 

This is the first step before we can delve into what quantity is sold and what quantity is supposedly stolen. We must also be careful not to disparage the Nigerian Navy’s efforts in curbing crude oil theft. Let’s not forget in a hurry that the Nigerian Navy plays a crucial role in protecting Nigeria’s maritime resources. It ensures the safety and security of Nigeria’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. The Navy conducts patrols to guard against illegal activities such as piracy, smuggling, and illegal fishing. Then, how come a section of the country would now turn around to accuse the Nigerian Navy of any act of illegality? 

Here is an interesting fact: The Nigerian Navy has stated that since 2004, it has arrested the crews of 236 tug boats, barges, and ships in an effort to crack down on the theft of crude oil and other illegal activities taking place on the seas off the coast of Nigeria. Increased naval patrolling and a policy of intercepting the larger depot ships were responsible for achieving this result. Theft of crude oil without these depot ships becomes a more dangerous activity as the smaller ships cannot cross rough seas to other countries. The depot ships can receive stolen crude oil from smaller boats and barges for transport across deeper oceans. The effort had reduced the number of attacks on vulnerable naval personnel stationed at illegal loading points. This is a commendable effort, and there is expected to be a barrage of attacks against the Nigerian Navy. 

I can understand the campaign of calumny against the Nigerian Navy. It is common in this clime and has been ongoing for several years. But for how long do we want to continue in this diatribe? Unfortunately, those vested interests have the means to control the narrative in the media and why the slander campaign has recently been scathing. 

I still struggle to imagine the involvement of the Nigerian Navy in crude oil theft. It is akin to giving a dog a bad name to hang it. This is what is playing out, and I don’t think the naval authorities should succumb to this blackmail. 

This is my take on the whole issue. The operations of the Nigerian Navy are an albatross for the actors in the trade. I gathered that the Nigerian Navy has rejigged its operations in the Niger Delta region to reduce, to the barest minimum, incidences of crude oil theft and other illegalities that hurt the economy. The best we can do is to encourage the Nigerian Navy as concerned stakeholders. 

Also, the media has a crucial role to play in this regard. The press must not be seen as encouraging propaganda and slander in this situation. They must be objective in the reportage of issues of national interest. The slander campaign against the Nigerian Navy is the handiwork of those entrenched in crude oil theft—my two cents.

Amuna is a forensic psychologist based in Warri.