By Stephen Ubanna
In spite of efforts being made by Delta Security Services Limited, a Company in which Government Ekpemudolo, popular, Tompolo, a one-time Niger Delta militant, owns substantial shares which has won a N48 billion Pipelines Surveillance contract from the Federal government last August, to stem oil theft in the region, Mohammed Bello-Koko, had said that it would be a difficult task to arrest the vessels used by the criminal elements in lifting stolen Crud from illegal platforms in the region.
Bello –Koko, the NPA, Managing Director, had said the oil thieves bring their vessel into the oil terminals legally but they go by the left hand side ‘’to commit the illegal activities after switching off the Automatic Identification System, AIS, of the vessels used in siphoning stolen Crude, from the Niger Delta region to Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, sub-regional market, Europe and other parts of the world. The AIS, according to industry stakeholders ‘’displays the vessel‘s position in the vicinity.
Although, Tompolo and his group, between August and now, have discovered 58 illegal oil points and two platforms, used in siphoning stolen Crude oil from the Niger Delta states of Delta and Bayelsa, which are among the 21 states of the Federation that are currently being flooded going by the report of Sandiya Umar Farouq, minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, but that has not stopped the oil thieves from doing what they are used to doing over the years: lifting stolen Crude from the Niger Delta region.
He had said that the Authority may not have done much to effectively monitor the oil thieves in Nigerian waters and Gulf of Guinea, GoG, because ‘‘it does not have the required technology to detect the origin of such oil thieves’ vessels or their destination’’.
He may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when said recently at the Presidential villa, Abuja, Federal Capital Territory, FCT, during a visit, that the Authority , which oversees the activities at the nation’s eight seaports, various oil terminals and Jetties, across the country, have set the necessary machinery in motion to acquire the Vessel Tracing Service , VTS, technology, ‘‘to enable the agency ‘‘to identify , locate and effectively monitor all the vessels in the nation’s maritime domain’’.
The NPA, boss, who could not hide his feelings had said that it is not because of lack of funds that the agency has not been able to procure the VTS, technology, noting that it had made efforts to do so about 10 years ago, which predates the Buhari’s Administration but did not get right. The NPA, helmsman, disclosedthat the agency has just identified a certified consultant, while also working with the officials of the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas,NLNG, company to help with critical detection.
Bello-Koko, the NPA Chief Executive officer, CEO, was said to have also revealed what may be helping the oil thieves to evade arrest was the continued theft of the buoys along the shipping routes. The buoys, which serve as Navigational routes, according to informed sources, costs between N12 million and N20 million. He had said that no fewer than 25 of such buoys have been stolen from Nigerian waters this year alone, meaning that hundreds of it may have been stolen between 2001 and 2021,by the oil thieves to forestall any attack on their vessels by security operatives.
The NPA, boss is optimistic that going by the assurance bythe katsina state born Nigerian President, who is determined to stop, oil theft at the Niger Delta region, ‘‘the VTS, technology would be procured between now and the end of the Administration on May 29, 2023.
He has every reason to take the Nigeria President by his words. This is because in 2017, he had engage HLSI Systems and Technologies Limited, an Israel security firm on a contract sum of sum of N195 billion, to deliver some anti-piracy security equipment to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety, NIMASA, to curb the activities of Pirates and sea robbers in Nigerian Maritime domain and the GoG. The Nigerian President may have taken the NIMASA’s anti-piracy war serious because the International Community had described Nigeria as one of ‘‘the maritime nations’ with the worst form of piracy’’.
Note the Israeli firm had delivered to NIMASA, 17 Interception Boats, 16 Armoured vehicles, which can enter the Creeks in search of the Criminal elements, and two Special Mission, SPM, vessels. The SPM, vessels, can stay inside water for days without running out of steam.
The Israeli firm was said to have also delivered to the maritime Regulatory agency two Special Mission aircrafts for Surveillance of Nigeria Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ, three helicopters and four unmanned aerial vehicles. The deployment of the maritime security equipment in Nigerian Maritime domain between last year and now, was said to have reduced to the barest minimum the activities of pirates and sea robbers.
This may have informed why Bashir Jamoh, Director General, NIMASA, could beat his chest that between March 2021 and now, there have not been any recorded case of attack on any ocean going vessels, with the deployment of Deep Blue Project security equipment in Nigerian waters and the GoG, thus providing the ammunition for the North American country of the United States, US, Coast Guard Command, USCGC, to seek improved Collaboration in anti-piracy activities with the agency.
Many believe that if the Nigerian President could keep to his words to procure the VTS, for NPA, the agency would be encouraged to take a cue from NIMASA, to deploy the technology immediately into Nigerian waters and the GoG, and to also ‘‘obtain information in terms of vessels movement in the region.
He was said to have assured Nigerians that there was no cause for alarm as the problem of oil theft in the Niger Delta region would soon be over, just as piracy in Nigeria waters and the GoG, are gradually becoming a thing of the past, no thanks to Jamoh, the NIMASA, CEO.
Maritime analysts believe that NPA, Authorities may have come out now to tell Nigerians why oil theft had persisted in the Niger Delta region, attributing it, to the vessels’ Captains switching of the AIS and theft of buoys on Navigational routes, because the security operatives engaged by Delta Security Services Limited, contracted for the Pipeline Surveillance in the region are closing in on the thieves, which may expose those behind the fraud , that may include top government officials, security operatives and the operators.
While Bello-Koko, the NPA, Managing Director , is now concerned on how to address squarely the activities of oil thieves in the Niger Delta, which is giving the Authority a bad name, he had said that the agency had generated and paid about N260 billion, between January and September , 2022, which is a cherry news.