Nigeria is reliant largely on the export of crude oil which is extracted from the Niger Delta region. Since the discovery of crude in Oloibiri in Bayelsa in the mid-20th century, the region has witnessed increased multinational firms’ presence and a host of problems between the host communities and the Federal Government. It is no news that the region is subjected to environmental degradation. In other words, the activities of these oil companies, with the permission of the government, result in oil spills which contaminate rivers and farmlands.
Residents of these communities are left without a source of livelihood as they cannot fish in contaminated waters or farm on contaminated lands. Several communities have also teamed up to file lawsuits against Shell in the United Kingdom recently, but the UK Supreme Court has said that they do not have the jurisdiction to sue the subsidiary of the firm due to time having elapsed. The argument of Shell’s legal representative was that the spills did not come from their operations but as a result of oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism and illegal refineries.
Oil theft has affected Nigeria’s output in the last few years.
While one may think that this line of argument lacks credibility, the activities of militants and oil thieves in the zone has cast doubts in many minds. In the last decade, the Navy has arrested not less than ten vessels carrying stolen crude. The latest one was about a week ago, which is said to be carrying hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil in it. And when all these are considered, it is true that vandals are doing a number on Nigeria’s income source. Recently, an illegal pipeline was discovered in the creeks. It led to an offshore oil depot with a platform. The depot had siphoned thousands of barrels per day before it was discovered.
However, the immediate past Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo has disclosed that the navy under his watch arrested over 15,000 rogue vessels in the nation’s waterways. He disclosed this shortly before he was pulled out of service. According to him, top among the arrests is the recent arrest of MT HEROIC IDUN that attempted to load crude oil in Bonny without authorization. He also stated that his greatest achievement during his tenure was Nigeria’s removal from the list of piracy-prone countries by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
Gambo says piracy significantly reduced in Nigeria.
He disclosed that under his leadership, the navy enjoyed improved surveillance that led to drastic reduction in marine crime within the nation’s waters. “The gamut of activities in the last two years further significantly reduced piracy within the Nigerian Maritime domain and the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) which was corroborated by the Defence Web,” . He said that these steps eventually culminated in Nigeria’s exit from the list of piracy prone countries as conveyed in the International Maritime Bureau Report of March 3, 2022.
It was during his time that the Nigerian Navy commenced the first indigenous systematic survey of the Nigerian coastal and offshore waters. They used state-of-the-art survey equipment onboard Nigerian Navy Ship LANA, which is an hydrographic Ship that the country acquired in 2022. He also said that under his watch, about ten pirates arrested for different infractions in the nation’s water were sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment for the first time. The former naval chief stated that Nigeria achieved this through the enactment of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act by the Federal Government in 2019.
Great achievement recorded against crude oil theft.
During his tenure as leader, the Nigerian Navy witnessed remarkable advancements in operations, logistics, manpower development, and personnel welfare. It can be argued that without the effort of men of the Nigerian Navy, Nigeria may have started recording less than 500,000 barrels per day a very long time ago. The less-than-a-million-bpd output is still a historic all-time-low record. The Navy recorded great achievements in anti-crude oil theft, anti-piracy and counterinsurgency operations as well as fleet renewal and massive infrastructural development among others. Overall, his words were succinct. “The past two and a half years have been very eventful and the Nigerian Navy has progressed.”