Oil Theft: How Nigeria Saved N66.9bn From Navy‘s Arrest Of 44 Vessels

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Rising crude oil theft, piracy and illegal refineries in the Maritime sector has remained a major challenge as it sabotages the nation’s economy. In this abridged report, TARKAA DAVID looks at how the stewardship of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo has changed the ugly trend in the oil sector.

The Nigeria Navy’s area of coverage extends beyond the Nigeria’s maritime domain to a coastline of about 2,874nm stretching from Angola in Southern Africa to Senegal in West Africa commonly referred to as the Gulf of Guinea.

With it rich endowment, the Gulf of Guinea unfortunately has the unintended consequences of attracting various threats such as piracy, smuggling and kidnapping for ransom that continue to affect the economic lifeline of countries in the region.

Yet the region has a dominant portion of global hydrocarbon deposits and is geographically positioned with comparative advantage owing to the absence of narrow maritime shipping lanes, straits or chokepoints linking major global shipping destinations.

Under the leadership of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, the navy has launched a campaign against crude oil theft, illegal bunkering and illegal refinery in Nigeria, through a sustained patrol of the creeks and waterways in their areas of operations.

Record shows that the arrested 44 vessels filled with illegal products and saved a whooping N66.9billion for the nation from the seizure. Maritime experts have even attributed the massive decline in criminality in the nation’s maritime space to the induction of state of the art facilities and platforms within the period under review.

To protect the various resources, the established dedicated naval operations and initiatives to counter piracy/sea robbery attacks in Nigeria’s maritime environment, while also engaging in deeper consultations with maritime stakeholders.

These initiatives have led to several successes in anti-piracy operations where a of 44 vessels were arrested with illegal products worth N66.9billion. The upsurge of crude oil theft, illegal bunkering and illegal refining of siphoned petroleum products in Nigeria has becoming alarming, owing to brazen resistance from these oil thieves.

Record shows that Nigeria losses over 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day to oil theft and other related criminalities in the oil sector. However, significant successes have been achieved in bringing the rate of piracy to the barest minimum, especially in the last 3 Quarters of 2021 as several other attacks on vessels in Nigerian waters was aborted by prompt response from NN ships.

It has been reported that the has adopted regular patrol using intelligence from MDA infrastructure namely: Falcon Eye and Regional Maritime Domain Awareness (RMAC) assets.

Last December, the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari reportedly commissioned an array of vessels and helicopters to add to the country’s already existing formidable naval assets. The President also performed the keel laying ceremony for SDB IV and SDB V.

The surveillance capability of the was further enhanced with the commissioning of the Falcon Eye state-of-the-art Maritime Domain Awareness Surveillance System by the Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, representing President Buhari in July 2021 at the Nigerian Naval Headquarters Abuja.

The system which incorporates various sensors located along Nigeria’s enormous coastline is seen as a game changer in the fight against piracy.

Speaking at the launching of the System, Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo said, the Falcon Eye “translates to complete coverage of Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone. He stated that monitoring and analysis of data from the various sites strategically located along the nation’s coastline is facilitated through the 4 Falcon Eye Centres in Abuja, Lagos, Yenagoa and Calabar.

Gambo added that the coverage of the satellite aspect of the Automatic Identification System of Falcon Eye extends beyond Nigerian waters to Cote D’Ivoire in the West, Cameroon at the East, and Angola at the South East.”

Available records indicate that in Year 2021, “44 vessels involved in illegal bunkering were arrested leading to the recovery of 1,664,628.61 barrels of crude oil and 45,752.91 Metric Tons of Automotive Gas Oil valued at N55.1 billion and N11.8billion respectively.

“In October 2021, the arrested a Singapore flagged bulk cargo ship, MV CHAYANEE NAREE with 32.9kg of smuggled cocaine.”

The 22 crew of the CHAYANEE NAREE, all reported to be Thai nationals, are being detained onboard the ship at the Lagos Complex while the investigation continues.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Global Piracy Report of 14 Jul 21, showed the lowest of piracy and sea robbery against ships  in 27 years. Notably, “there has been a marked decline in piracy in the GoG in 2021 with 11 pirate incidents recorded compared to 44 in 2020.”

Similarly, there was a decline in pirate attacks and sea robbery in Nigeria’s water where the country reported only 11 pirate incidents and 3 sea robberies in 2021, compared to 22 pirate incidents and 16 sea robberies in 2020.

In the period under review,the inducted and commissioned a Hydrographic Survey Ship NNS LANA, Inshore Patrol Crafts (IPC) NNS ABA, NNS KANO, NNS IKENNE and NNS SOKOTO. Others are Fast Patrol Boats (FPB) NNS OSUN and Seaward Defence Boat III (SDB) NNS OJI.

Additionally, an NN312 helicopter was commissioned. In addition: 38 Sun craft Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIBs), 32 Paramount RHIBs, 22 Poly RHIBS, 11 SEWA Boats, 8 Epenal Boats, 4 Suncraft Manta Boats, 4 Falcon Boats and 2 Aresa Boats were also inducted into the inventory of the during the event.

Furthermore, the Nigerian Navy, working with foreign navies conducted 3 major exercises which include Ex OBANGAME EXPRESS, Ex GRAND AFRICAN NEMO and Ex SAFE DOMAIN 1 in 2021.

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