The Nigerian Navy, NN, has debunked allegations of its complicity in the fight to halt the menace of oil theft, calling them ‘reckless, preposterous and unfortunate’.
The NN’s reaction to the allegations was contained in a press release issued Monday by the Service’s Director of Information (DINFO), Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan.
TheFact Daily gathers that a front page report of Thisday newspaper of Thursday, 28 July, 2021, alleged the unwillingness or inability of the Navy to halt oil theft menace, and identified massive crude oil theft as one of the reasons the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, (NNPC) Limited is unable to meet its oil quota.
The paper further fingered the top hierarchy of the Navy fighting the menace in the Niger Delta, for aiding the growing oil theft. It also alleged that even the immediate past Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas (Rtd) was reported to have admitted and lamented the involvement of naval personnel in the illicit oil bunkering and theft in the country, and warned them (navy personnel) to desist.
Ayo-Vaughan, in the statement addressing the allegations, posited that the Navy in the last 18 months, under the leadership of its current CNS, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, has left no stone unturned in her renewed fight against illegalities in the maritime domain particularly crude oil theft (COT), illegal bunkering, Illegal Refining Sites (IRS) and associated crimes.
He recalled the Navy’s April 1, 2022 launch of Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO, in synergy with the NNPC, to curb COT and associated crimes. He also listed the achievements of the operations of OPDDB over the 4 month period since its launch, which TheFact Daily had reported, and which include seizures of millions of litres of Automative Gas Oil, (AGO) and crude oil, and hundreds of thousands of litres of Dual Purpose Kerosene, DPK, Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, Sludge and LPFO, all amounting to about 25 billion naira. OPDDB has also destroyed 278 illegal refining sites, 127 illegal refinery ovens, 102 illegal refining pits and 148 refinery storage tanks; it has arrested 85 suspects, 72 boats and 23 vehicles and tanker-trucks, and recovered several outboard engines and pumping machines.
“The entire region has indeed felt the impact of OPDDB because most oil thieves have been put out of business, the carbon soot that was predominant in some places due to the operation of Illegal refineries has disappeared and innocent citizens have been saved from the health dangers/hazards the fumes/soot posed to them. Navy personnel in the Niger Delta creeks have repeatedly raided these IRS to ensure they remain inactive, unproductive, and moribund”, Ayo-Vaughan said.
He said the leadership of the Navy and the NNPC held regular meetings to reappraise, update and situate the operation, with a view to fashioning out new strategies to curb the menace.
Addressing the allegations of complicity by the top hierarchy of the Navy in the crime of oil theft by locals and several top Nigerians, the Navy spokesman, while conceding that the nation suffers sleazes from time to time from some unpatriotic Nigerians, maintained that there were still honourable men in Nigeria, some of whom include naval officers.
He reiterated the Navy’s zero tolerance of COT, a demonstration of which is evidenced in charges being faced by some officers who at a time were alleged to be complicit in COT.
Furthermore, the NN maintained that it had not reneged in appealing to political, traditional and opinion leaders in the region to educate the people to note the environmental, economic and health hazards the crime of COT and IRS pose to the operators, people and entire region, hence the need to dissuade the oil thieves from the crime.
The statement also appealed to the members of the Fourth estate of the Realm, who have always been considered to be partners in progress at resolving the problems of the country, not to exacerbate the problems, but rather exhaust all available avenues to verify information before going to the press.