The rate of pipeline vandalization, illegal bunkering/Crude Oil Theft, piracy, sea robbery and other maritime crimes on Nigeria’s seaways has taken a worrisome dimension in recent times.
In line with the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo’s directive to end crude oil theft, in March, the Nigerian Navy officially flagged off Operation Dakatar Da Barawo at FOT jetty Onne, Rivers State.
The exercise was witnessed by officers and ratings of NNS Soroh who are till date taking part in the operation which is serving as backwater operations to enhance and improve on already established operations nationwide.
The operation according to its slogan “Dakatar Da Barawo” which means “Stop The Thief” is aimed at stopping the crude oil theft, nullify illegal refineries and suppress piracy and other maritime crimes.
It was however observed that the act is sometimes perpetrated by locals and contractors employed by the company to secure the pipelines.
This dastardly act has caused oil wastages and losses of foreign exchange which has not only affected aquatic business but the socio-economic development of the country at large.
A record obtained from the Crude Oil Marketing Division, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited showed loss of crude oil valued at N556 Billion Naira between Aug. and Oct. 2021.
In his words: “Oil theft in Nigeria is considered to be the illegal appropriation of crude or refined oil products from the pipelines of multinational oil companies”
“It is facilitated by the pragmatic co-operation between militia organizations, the local population, and oil company employees who use a variety of methods to steal oil from the multinational oil corporations that are stationed within the country.
Due to the lack of federal oversight and a large network of corruption, oil theft is primarily cellular rather than hierarchical and requires frequent collaboration between a variety of random players depending on the level of oil theft being committed.
“These key players use methods such as hot-tapping and cold-tapping to perform oil bunkering and steal thousands of barrels of oil per day from established oil pipelines”
Given that almost 83 percent of total exports revenue come from the petroleum products revenue in Nigeria, the political and military elite have sought ways to consolidate their control of the oil trade.
This monopoly over the oil trade has prompted many local villagers to commit small-scale oil theft and to pursue the illegal refinery of stolen crude oil as means of entering into this unofficial economy.
In view of the foregoing, NNS Soroh was saddled with the responsibility of protecting all form’s maritime activities from criminal elements within its area of operations.
NNS Soroh, led by Commodore Dan Atakpa was however saddled with the responsibility of being the Task Unit Commander with FOB FORMOSO and FOB KUOLAMA II as subordinates or task elements.
This is for effective monitoring of activities as well as confronting the threats to security within the area of operations by NNS Soroh’ and its subordinate units.
“The brief will cover operations of conduct of creeks/water and land patrols by TU 22.2.5 and its TEs, Air Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance patrols, assessment and achievements as well as challenges.
Acting on credible intel on Mar 22, NNS SOROH Anti- Crude Oil Theft Team deactivated an IRS within Otuasege, Okarki and Otegwe communities in Ogbia LGA of Bayelsa State.
During the operation, it was discovered that the site had; 55 Ovens, 24 Dugout Pits, 33 Metal Storage Tanks Built on a stretch of about 2- 3 km., Illegally refined crude oil were laden with about 4,900,000 litres, Five Warehouse and Assy Points containing 210,000 litres, 2800X75Litres of Sack Bags of suspected illegally refined AGO, PMS and DPK, About 2,700,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil, 5 pumping machines were recovered from the site.
During the first week of operation led by Commodore Dan Atakpa, Commander NNS SOROH, intelligence reports revealed that the Phillips fishing camp at Akassa Brass LGA was a safe haven for illegal refining operators.
Team conducted a cordon and search of the camp and some persons were observed fleeing the camp through the rear swamps upon sighting approaching gunboats leaving mainly some fishermen, women and children.
According to the Commander: “Recovered materials within the first 28 days of operation are; Three Diesel Pumps, Ree Generating Set, Three Welding Machine, Three Speed Boat, Three Yamaha 115 HP Engine, Four Pumping Machine, Seven Hoses, One Submersible Pumping Machine, Two HP Mounted Outboard Engine, One Toyo Mechanical Jack, One Chain Saw, One Yamaha 40 HP Engine, Four Shovels
Other seizures are; Three diesel pumps, One welding equipment, Three illegal refining ovens under construction were discovered at the camp, One wooden boat containing small quantity of crude oil, About 50 sacks of product suspected to be illegally refined AGO were discovered at a creek in the vicinity of the camp.
An illegal refining site was located opposite the Phillips camp with; Nine illegal refining units (ovens), 12 dugout pits, 21 large metal tanks/drums, Over 100 sacks cumulatively laden with About 120,000 litres stolen Crude Oil , 65,000 litres AGO, All deactivated accordingly. Two pumping machines and hoses were also confiscated from the sites.
NNS Soroh Commander, Commodore Dan
Atakpa while stating challenges faced during operations further called on oil companies to always follow up and seal leakages whenever illegal refining sites are deactivated.
Atakpa sighted an instance where a deactivated Illegal refinery was reactivated by crude oil thieves within three weeks of being deactivated.
“You can see the crude oil flowing and no one can stop it except at the tapping point if the concerned oil company is notified.
“Experience have revealed that many at times we make such reports and nothing is been done about it.
“The Navy will do it’s part but other agencies have their roles to play, that’s the message that we are trying to get across. The Navy can not do it all alone.
“When we move in to deactivate a place, it is left for the oil companies to go and lock up the place. A similar thing happened about seven months ago when a tapping point was reported, till date it hasn’t been locked up.
“If not for the dexterity we put in place at Soroh, same thing would have happened. There are times that my men face resistance but we end up deactivating the illegal points.
“The crude oil thieves sometimes give up as they know Soroh will surely visit them,” he said.