Crushing the Burgeoning Menace of Crude Oil Theft, Bunkering and Pipeline Vandalism in Nigeria (11)
To curb the large-scale activities of illegal pipeline vandals and crude oil thieves, who economically sabotage the nation of its resources, Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO, a Hausa word for “stop the thief” kicked off on April 1, 2022. Four weeks in, the Nigerian Navy denied these oil thieves and economic saboteurs an estimated N10 billion and with the extension given the successes recorded, seizures of over 6 million litres of products and stolen crude oil, amounting to N3.2 billion were made in weeks five and six. Chiemelie Ezeobi reports that these gains are indicative of the navy’s resolve to ensure zero tolerance for COT, illegal bunkering and other related economic crimes in the nation’s maritime area in particular and the Gulf of Guinea waters in general
That Nigeria is blessed with an abundance of natural resources is not in doubt. In fact, Nigeria has about 36 trillion barrels and 182 trillion cubic feet of oil and gas reserves with the capacity to produce about 2.4 million barrels and 8 billion cubic feet of oil and gas respectively per day.
It is also not in doubt that oil companies operate in excess of 5,779 wells, 9,717km of pipelines, 112 flow stations, 16 gas plants and 126 production platforms offshore.
These ordinarily should be a blessing to any nation. But for Nigeria, the hydra-headed menace of pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft and bunkering have turned the blessing to a curse as these economic saboteurs continuously milk the nation’s resources to the tune of billions in loss on a monthly basis.
In the first part of this series published on Monday, May 16, 2022, THISDAY had quoted the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Ltd Group Managing Director, Melee Kyari, who revealed that $1.5 billion was lost to oil thieves between January and March 2022.
From illegal oil wells to dug out pits and reservoirs, as well as Illegal Refinery Sites (IRS), these crude and criminal ways of siphoning the nation’s oil products have become a nightmare as they damage not just the economy but also the environment.
Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO
Buoyed by the quest to crush out the burgeoning menace of crude oil theft and other related acts of economic sabotage, the Defence Headquarters set up Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO on April 1, 2022.
According to the reason for its set up, Operation DAKARTA DA BARAWO, which means “stop the thief” in Hausa Language, will focus attention on dominating the nation’s waterways through aggressive and intelligence driven patrols to curtail pipeline vandalism, illegal oil refining as well as prevent conveyance of stolen oil products to other nations through the sea.
At the flag off ceremony at Federal Ocean Terminal Onne, Rivers State, the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, said it was imperative to curtail the incessant crude oil theft, illegal oil refining and other sundry crimes within Nigerian maritime environment and the Gulf of Guinea considering the recent reports of massive revenue losses which compelled all efforts to be emplaced to curtail the wanton theft and illegal oil bunkering of crude oil in the nation’s maritime environment.
He said: “It is important to state that the Nigerian Navy under my watch remains committed to eradicating all acts of criminality in Nigeria’s maritime domain and by extension, the Gulf of Guinea for the economic wellbeing of our people.”
“Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO will involve dominating the nation’s backwaters through aggressive and intelligence driven patrols. It would also be dedicated to monitoring pipelines; block identified strategic estuaries to prevent conveyance of stolen crude oil from inshore to sea and to maintain credible presence along the coastline of areas prone to crude oil theft.”
To achieve this, he emphasised the importance of synergy among stakeholders especially NNPC to facilitate the stoppage of oil theft.
Meanwhile, given that there is an already existing Operation Delta Safe in that region, the new operation is aimed at reinvigorating it with a view to suffocate economic saboteurs in the Niger Delta region.
Other objectives of the new operations include but are not limited to securing critical maritime infrastructure, creating an enabling environment for the sustenance of the desired level of hydrocarbon production, safe shipping, and economic activities, and restoring investor confidence in Nigeria Maritime domain.
Within two weeks that Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO was set up, the oil thieves and criminals were denied of about N200 million and $700,000 worth of products within a period of roughly two weeks.
In the third week, operatives seized over 6,000,000 litres of products valued over N3 Billion from oil thieves and economic saboteurs.
In the fourth week, the operatives recovered over 2,178,500 litres (13,703 barrels) of stolen crude oil, about 787,500,000 litres of AGO and 20,000 litres of Kerosene all valued above N1.7 billion.
However, this caused the migration by operators of Illegal Refining Sites (IRS) from the South-south geopolitical zone to the South-east.
Given the gains and successes of the operation in April, the navy extended the duration of the operation beyond the first 30 days.
Therefore, for weeks five and six, seizures and arrests of over 6 million litres of products and stolen crude oil were made. Also, more than 20 suspects were arrested and handed over for prosecution.
Timeline of Operations, Arrests Recorded
Barely three weeks after the operation was launched, the Director of Information (DINFO), Naval Headquarters, Commodore AO Ayo-Vaughan, disclosed to THISDAY that operatives recorded more arrests and seizures.
Giving a breakdown of arrests made, he said that as at Tuesday April 5, 2022, the Tactical Riverine Assault Squadron in conjunction with Port Security Officials of the NPA in PH conducted deterrence patrols at Isaka Junction, an area notorious as a hub for violent extortionists and kidnappers.
The patrol paid off because as at 1630, the squadron intercepted two wooden boats at Mary Slessor Junction, Indaki in Port Harcourt. The boats were laden with an unspecified quantity of product suspected to be illegally refined AGO. They were towed and secured at Taraba Jetty.
Also on April 5, 2022, NNS PATHFINDER in Port-Harcourt intercepted nine huge (Cotonou’) wooden boats laden with an unspecified quantity of illegally refined AGO at Andoki, Bille and other areas within her area of responsibility.
Additionally, Illegal Refining Sites (IRS) with cooking pots, tanks and reservoirs were discovered in Ketoru Creek. The base also arrested two STARZ marine BOATS DOROH 1 and DOROH 2 for providing illegal escort services within the Bonny maritime area without proper approvals.
Also, on April 7, 2022, NNS ABA intercepted and arrested MV ROYAL DIADEM which was laden with suspected illegally refined AGO of unspecified quantity at Bonny area. The vessel was unable to provide appropriate documentation at the point of loading, hence MV ROYAL DIADEM is presently undergoing investigation.
Similarly, NNS DELTA at Warri located an IRS around Opumami and Asukpo, Creek laden with about 520,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil. Also, at Egwa creek in Warri area, an IRS observed to contain several metallic ovens and storage tanks was destroyed.
On April 11, 2022, the Forward Operation Base (FOB) FORMOSO acting on intelligence reports raided Fununu Fishing Camp in Akassa, Bayelsa State, a known but suspected hideout for illegal refining operators and sea robbers. In the encounter, a dugout pit containing about 1,258bbls of stolen crude oil was deactivated. In the same vein and on the same day, FOB BONNY destroyed a wooden laden boat with unspecified quantities of suspected crude oil at Nabil creek in Rivers State.
On April 15, 2022, NNS SOROH at Yenagoa discovered two stores and assembly points used by illegal bunkerers at Onimbu and Ayama communities subsequently leading to the discovery of 6,000 litres of AGO.
The base also arrested three trucks each laden with 35,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO. Equally, NNS DELTA at Asugbo, Creek in Warri deactivated an IRS with about 50,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil and 150,000 litres of suspected sludge.
On the same day also, the base deactivated an IRS around Egwa creek in Warri laden with 250,000 litres of stolen crude and about 30,000 litres of illegally refined AGO. Meanwhile, in Akwa Ibom state, NNS JUBILEE intercepted and arrested a wooden boat laden with about 100 drums and sacks of product estimated at about 33,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO.
Still on April 15, 2022, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) DELTA at Warri, deactivated an Illegal Refining Site (IRS) around Sara creek. The IRS had 16 ovens, 16 metal storage tanks and three wide pits filled with about 500,000 litres of illegally refined AGO, as well as 700,000 litres of stolen crude oil, a generator and four pumping machines.
According to Commodore Ayo Vaughn, an IRS at Asugbo creek in Warri was also discovered with six ovens, 12 metal storage tanks and five large pits all containing about 600,000 litres of stolen crude oil including 200,000 litres of illegally refined AGO and about 150,000 litres of sludge.
On April 19, 2022, sequel to series of air reconnaissance, he said the FOB FORMOSO in Bayelsa State raided an IRS at Ereweibio creek in Brass LGA. Accordingly, seven large cooking ovens, 10 large metal storage tanks and drums all laden with about 400,000 litres of illegally refined AGO and 20,000 litres of suspected illegally refined PMS were discovered. The site also had five large pits holding approximately 700,000 litres of stolen crude oil.
Equally, two pumping machines, one gasoline generator, one submersible pump and one chainsaw machine were discovered at the site and destroyed in situ.
Meanwhile, on April 21, 2022, an IRS at Lelemu creek in Warri South-West was discovered. During the operation, 19 ovens, 26 metal storage tanks and two dugout pits laden with about 250,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil and 50,000 litres of illegally refined AGO were destroyed.
To ensure effective deactivation of IRS, NNS DELTA on April 21, 2022 conducted swamp buggy operations during which an earlier identified IRS around Egwa creek in Warri was destroyed. During the operation, 16 ovens, 31 metal storage tanks and seven large pits all filled with about 850,000 litres of stolen crude oil were equally deactivated.
On April 22, 2022, the DINFO said around Lelemu creek in Warri South West LGA of Delta State, personnel under NNS DELTA again discovered 22 IRS ovens, 12 metallic storage tanks and five large pits all containing about 150,000 litres of stolen crude oil.
At another IRS off Lelemu creek, 19 ovens, 42 storage tanks and 14 large pits containing about 300,000 litres of stolen crude oil, as well as approximately 200,000 litres of illegally refined AGO, 100,000 litres of illegally refined DPK and 100,000 litres of suspected crude oil sludge were all destroyed.
In a related but unprecedented development, NNS LUGARD at Kogi State in the course of OPDDB discovered an IRS on 22 April 2022, at a location off Akili-Ozizor community of Ogbaru LGA, Anambra State. During the operation, four locally fabricated ovens, seven metal storage tanks, four large pits of which two were for storage of about 48,000 litres of stolen crude oil were all destroyed.
On the same day, NNS VICTORY in Calabar raided a tanker garage along Harbour road in the city and seized a storage tank containing about 45,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO. Also, a tanker laden with 33,000 Litres of suspected locally refined AGO was seized and the owner was arrested. Furthermore, about 58 drums of locally refined AGO were also seized.
On April 23, 2022, NNS SOROH at Yenagoa, intercepted a wooden boat at Otuokpot Area along Kolo creek. The wooden boat was laden with 60,000 litres of illegally refined AGO together with over 100 sacks of the same product. Items on the boat which included one pumping machine, one Yamaha 40HP outboard engine and one locally made boat anchor with the products were destroyed at Ogbia waterside.
The base also conducted a search on a Market Boat heading for St Nicolas Axis from the Akassa area. About 2,500 litres of suspected illegally refined products stored in gallons and sacks were hidden inside the boat. Accordingly, same were evacuated for destruction.
Likewise on the same day, personnel under NNS DELTA on patrol around Jones creek in Warri South West LGA raided an IRS and discovered 33 ovens, 42 metal storage tanks and seven wide pits all filled with about 1,200,000 litres of stolen crude oil, 250,000 litres of illegally refined AGO and about 100,000 litres of sludge.
Further combing of the area off Jones creek led to the discovery of another IRS with five ovens, two metal storage tanks and eight large pits with about 150,000 litres of sludge. Both IRS off Jones creek with the discovered items and products were destroyed in situ.
Also on April 23, 2022, NNS SOROH at Yenagoa during a patrol of Mbiama , Kiama and Sagbama axis discovered two empty tanker-trucks close to Sagbama waterside which is neither a loading site nor a tank farm. The two trucks were therefore neutralised.
Similarly, the base intercepted a Market Boat at Odioma-Diema axis along Akassa- Brass route. The boat was laden with over 3,500 litres of suspected crude oil products concealed in drums and gallons which were subsequently evacuated to a river bank and neutralised accordingly.
On April 25, 2022, NNS DELTA in Warri deactivated an IRS around Sara creek in Warri South West LGA. A total of 30 refining units/ovens, 35 big metal storage tanks and four large pits cumulatively filled with about 500,000 litres of illegally refined AGO and 700,000 litres of stolen crude oil were deactivated.
Also on April 25, 2022, NNS SOROH identified and proceeded to a newly reconstructed IRS off Otuofor creek in Sangana, Brass LGA. The site had two refining ovens, two empty storage tanks and a large wooden boat containing about 100,000 litres of illegally sourced crude oil. These were all destroyed in situ.
Thereafter, NNS SOROH searched adjoining creeks around Kotipiri fishing camp before proceeding to another IRS at Ereweibio creek, Sangana Brass LGA. A total of 15 large pits, 10 ovens, seven large metal storage tanks, drums and sacks all containing about 500,000 litres of illegally sourced crude oil, 400,000 litres of illegally refined AGO and 20,000 litres of illegally refined kerosene were discovered and deactivated accordingly.
Additionally, one 40Hp Yamaha engine, one Power Series 5,000 Watts generator and one pumping machine were seized from the site.
On April 26, 2022, NNS DELTA at Sara creek in Warri SW LGA of Delta State discovered a total of 15 illegal refining units/ovens, 18 metal storage tanks and two large pits all laden with a total of about 150,000 litres of illegally refined AGO and 400,000 litres of stolen crude oil. These were all crushed and destroyed.
Also on the same day, the base intercepted one large wooden boat laden with about 200,000 litres of stolen crude oil hidden in a creek around Ekpemu community in Warri North LGA. Accordingly, the wooden boat and product were destroyed in situ while two pumping machines were seized.
On April 30, 2022, NNS PATHFINDER in Port-Harcourt intercepted one wooden boat laden with an unspecified quantity of illegally refined AGO at Isaka junction. The Base also conducted swamp buggy operations in Cawthorne channel and later intercepted two wooden boats laden with an unspecified quantity of products suspected to be local illegally refined AGO.
Also on April 30, FOB BONNY intercepted a large ‘Cotonou’ wooden boat tied to a branch and ladened with about 300,000 litres of product suspected to be local illegally refined AGO. These were all neutralised appropriately.
On the same day, NNS DELTA located an IRS around Ogbodede community in Warri South LGA. The site had two ovens, seven metal storage tanks and 10 large pits cumulatively laden with about 275,000 litres of stolen crude oil. The criminals fled before the arrival of the naval patrol team. Nevertheless, the IRS was deactivated.
Further exploitation by the base led to the discovery of an inactive IRS off Asisan creek in Warri South LGA. It was observed that the IRS was under construction with one oven already constructed. The site was subsequently destroyed, the DINFO added.