Assessing Nigerian Navy’s Impactful War Against Oil Theft

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By Best Agbese

Crude oil theft assumed a dangerous dimension at some point in the country’s annals. It was estimated that Nigeria lost about $46 billion (N16.25 trillion) to crude oil theft in 11 years. The thought of what such an amount of money could have done to the country’s economy leaves one with goosebumps. 

I recall attempts by successive governments to address this issue to no avail. It was a regime of the more you see, the less you understand. The country continued to bleed profusely as crude oil was its major revenue source. 

I believe the Nigerian Navy has yet to be duly recognized for its role in addressing crude oil theft in the country. Instead, it was a regime of slander against the Nigerian Navy by those vested interests who continued to smile at the bank. At the same time, the bulk of the citizens wallowed in poverty. 

The efforts of the Nigerian Navy to address the malaise have been ongoing, but the difference is in their quantum. Here is the good news. Since the advent of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration, there has been a considerable difference in the war against crude oil theft, and thanks to the new drive by the Nigerian Navy under the leadership of Vice Admiral Emmanual Ogalla, the Chief of the Naval Staff. 

I could see leadership at work. I also see passion and dedication to turning the tide around. I must confess that this has been the missing link for several years. There is something about the Chief of Naval Staff. He is not the loud type. He is also not the darling of newspapers. He is not given to media grandstanding. But cross his path at your peril. Those in the illicit trade can corroborate this much. 

That they have suffered a bloody nose is an understatement. Hear this: “The Nigerian Navy deployed ten warships, two attack helicopters and 500 ballistic boats in a special amphibious exercise to curb crude oil theft and sea robbery in Nigeria’s waters.” 

If this is not phenomenal, I don’t know how else to explain it. It indicates that crude oil theft will soon be a thing of the past with the renewed efforts of the Nigerian Navy. The Chief of Naval Staff has indeed displayed an unalloyed commitment towards addressing the issue of crude oil theft. 

There are many sides to the naval chief that are not in the public domain. According to insider sources, one issue the naval chief addressed upon resumption of office was the staff welfare of naval officers and ratings. It was revealed that the position of the naval chief was hinged on the fact that for him to be successful in the war against crude oil theft, the welfare of officers and ratings must be addressed. 

That was a strategic one and gave us an insight into the workings of the mind of the naval chief. I can bet that addressing the issue of welfare in the Nigerian Navy was instrumental to the successes recorded within a short period. 

The naval chief has displayed leadership and explained why the Nigerian Navy deserves commendation for its efforts to curb crude oil theft. We might not understand the impact this would have on the country’s economy, as crude oil remains the country’s primary revenue source. Let me say something interesting. In recent times, the Nigerian Navy has been accused of aiding and abetting crude oil theft. 

Life is indeed paradoxical. Accusing the Nigerian Navy of crude oil theft is a funny one. I read commentaries that defeat common sense. I knew the game plan. And I agree with the saying that when you fight corruption, corruption fights back. Those that are entrenched in the trade have been given a bloody nose. Their source of income has been obstructed, and the expected thing to do is to slander and rubbish the image of the Nigerian Navy. This is a topic for another day. 

The truth remains that the leadership of the Nigerian Navy has done well. I am pleased that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was elected as one of the best to lead the Nigerian Navy, considering its constitutional role in safeguarding the country’s territorial waterways. 

I am also happy for the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, for rising to the occasion by displaying purposeful leadership in the Nigerian Navy. We need more of such Nigerians in leadership positions in the country. We need leaders who are passionate about the common good. We also need leaders whose overarching objective is contributing to sustainable growth and development in the country. 

Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla is a lesson in history on providing leadership. His disposition is infectious. Someone mentioned recently that the naval chief eats and breathes Nigeria. He has restored professionalism in the Nigerian Navy. And the result is what we see and commend today. But it didn’t come on a platter. It was a combination of hard work, focus, sincerity of heart, and purpose. 

At the risk of sounding like the Nigerian Navy’s mouthpiece, but the truth must be told. The naval chief is a man on a mission to lead the Nigerian Navy towards nation-building. This is evident in how the Nigerian Navy has intensified efforts to secure the country’s waterways. 

We must learn lessons from the example set by the naval chief. It is a worthy lesson in leadership. The country needs more of such in leadership positions in our quest for sustainable growth and development. The impact of the Nigerian Navy’s war against crude oil theft is commendable. There are no questions about it—my two cents.

Agbese is an oil and gas expert based in Aberdeen, United Kingdom.