The upsurge in crude oil theft, illegal bunkering and illegal refining of siphoned off petroleum products in the country, particularly in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, is becoming alarming, due to the brazen resistance of these oil thieves, despite the measures taken to contain the threat.
Unfortunately, these acts have a negative effect on Nigeria, being a mono-economic nation that depends solely on oil-generated revenues for its economic survival. Record shows that Nigeria loses over 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day to oil theft and other related crimes in the oil sector.
In order to address these maritime threats, the Nigerian Navy under the leadership of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, immediately launched a campaign against crude oil theft, illegal bunkering and illegal refinery, with a corresponding order to the commanders of various formations in the Gulf of Guinea to carry out this directive to them, by a sustained patrol of the creeks and waterways in their areas of operations.
This directive, from all indications, appeared to have been applied to the latter as the record shows that the Nigerian Navy arrested 44 vessels full of illegal products and rescued a whooping N66.9bn for the nation from seizure.
The Nigerian Navy, which has the responsibility of protecting the maritime space that extends beyond its immediate surroundings to include the entire Gulf of Guinea (GoG), has recorded significant successes over the past year.
Maritime industry experts have even attributed the massive drop in crime in the country’s maritime space to the introduction of state-of-the-art facilities and platforms, during the reporting period.
The responsibility of the Nigerian Navy extends beyond the country’s maritime domain to a coastline of approximately 2,874 nautical miles stretching from Angola in Southern Africa to Senegal in West Africa commonly referred to as the Gulf of Guinea (GoG).
The GoG, with its rich endowment, unfortunately has the unintended consequences of attracting various threats such as piracy, smuggling and kidnapping for ransom which continue to affect the economic life of countries in the region.
The region has a dominant part of the world’s hydrocarbon deposits and is geographically positioned with a comparative advantage due to the absence of narrow sea lanes, straits or choke points linking the world’s major maritime destinations.
To safeguard these enormous assets, the Nigerian Navy has put in place dedicated naval operations and initiatives to counter piracy attacks/theft at sea in Nigeria’s maritime environment, while engaging in deeper consultations with maritime stakeholders. .
These initiatives have commendably led to several successes in anti-piracy operations where a total of 44 vessels have been detained with illegal products worth N66.9 billion.
Records show that significant successes have been achieved in bringing the rate of piracy to a bare minimum, particularly in the last 3 quarters of 2021, as several other attacks on ships in Nigerian waters were halted by a rapid response from the NN ships on patrol using intelligence from the MDA infrastructure. namely: Falcon Eye and Regional Maritime Domain Awareness (RMAC) assets.
In December 2021, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, ordered a set of ships and helicopters to add to the country’s already existing formidable naval assets.
It was a proud moment for the Nigerian Navy and the culmination of this event. Mr. President also proceeded to lay the keel of SDB IV and SDB V.
It is worth saying that with the introduction of these new platforms, the Nigerian Navy has continued to enhance its operational capability as well as the scope and depth of its activities both in Nigerian waters and the GoG.
The Nigerian Navy’s surveillance capability was further enhanced with the commissioning of the state-of-the-art Falcon Eye maritime domain awareness surveillance system by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, representing President Buhari in July 2021 at the Headquarters of the Nigerian Navy in Abuja.
The system which integrates various sensors located along Nigeria’s massive coastline is seen as a game changer in the fight against piracy.
The Vice President pointed out that Nigeria loses around $26 billion a year due to criminal activities, especially piracy and sea robbery, which highlights the need to enhance maritime security in Nigerian waters.
Speaking at the system’s launch, Navy Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo said the Falcon Eye “results in comprehensive coverage of Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
He said monitoring and analysis of data from the various sites strategically located along the country’s coastline is facilitated by the 4 Falcon Eye centers in Abuja, Lagos, Yenagoa and Calabar.
Gambo added that the coverage of the satellite aspect of Falcon Eye’s automatic identification system extends beyond Nigerian waters to Côte d’Ivoire in the west, Cameroon in the east and l ‘Angola to the southeast. Relevantly, the system, combined with the various maritime and air platforms as well as well-thought-out strategies and vigorous leadership, has resulted in a sharp decline in criminal activity in the maritime domain of the country and the GoG in 2021.
Available records indicate that in 2021, “44 vessels involved in illegal bunkering were arrested resulting in the recovery of 1,664,628.61 barrels of crude oil and 45,752.91 metric tons of automotive diesel worth N55.1 billion and N11.8 billion respectively.
“In October 2021, the Nigerian Navy arrested a Singapore-flagged bulk cargo ship, MV CHAYANEE NAREE with 32.9 kg of contraband cocaine.”
The 22 crew members of the CHAYANEE NAREE, all believed to be Thai nationals, are being held on board the vessel at the Lagos Port Complex while the investigation continues.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Global Piracy Report of July 14, 21, showed the lowest total of piracy and thefts at sea against ships in 27 years. Notably, “there was a marked decline in piracy at GoG in 2021 with 11 piracy incidents recorded compared to 44 in 2020”.
Similarly, there has been a drop in pirate attacks and sea robberies in Nigerian waters, where the country reported only 11 pirate incidents and 3 sea robberies in 2021, compared to 22 pirate incidents and 16 flights at sea in 2020.
These figures demonstrate the effectiveness of the Nigerian Navy’s maritime security commitments. The security and economic implications are quite enormous not only for Nigeria, but also for the sub-region, as efforts to neutralize the activities of criminal elements and economic saboteurs will boost and accelerate maritime trade and commerce, reduce costs , including insurance premiums and hopefully put an end to smuggling. of crude oil on which the country depends so heavily.
After articulating his vision and mission statements, producing a strategic directive document as well as the Nigerian Navy Strategic Plan, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, gained the full confidence officers and ranks who have affirmed their loyalty and vow to be willing, able and ready to keep the nation’s waters and resources safe and secure for national prosperity.
During the reporting period, the Nigerian Navy inducted and commissioned a Hydrographic Vessel NNS LANA, Coastal Patrol Boats (IPC) NNS ABA, NNS KANO, NNS IKENNE and NNS SOKOTO. The others are the NNS OSUN Fast Patrol Boats (FPB) and the NNS OJI Seaward Defense Boat III (SDB).
In addition, the NN312 helicopter was put into service. In addition: 38 Sun craft Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB), 32 Paramount RHIB, 22 Poly RHIBS, 11 SEWA Boats, 8 Epenal Boats, 4 Manta Suncraft Boats, 4 Falcon Boats and 2 Aresa Boats were also inducted into the Nigerian Navy inventory during the event.
Additionally, the Nigerian Navy, in conjunction with foreign navies, has conducted 3 major exercises including Ex OBANGAME EXPRESS, Ex GRAND AFRICAN NEMO and Ex SAFE DOMAIN 1 in 2021.
Despite this remarkable achievement, Gambo dared to say that the Nigerian Navy under his leadership remains committed to ensuring that Delta State and its maritime sector remain secure within their mandate, which is to ensure that socio- legitimate economic interests remain. without being hindered by potential and existing criminals in the maritime space”