Western Naval Command Operation water Guard Tackles Petrol  Smugglers; Cotonou Oil thieves Lose Boats

 By Stephen Ubanna

Penultimate week after, Mustapha Hassan, a Rear Admiral, and Flag office, FOC, Western Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy, under the close watch of Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, and  Bashir Jamoh OFR, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, had set  set up the eight -member Committee of the blue economy, he has called for  further deepening  of information sharing  between  Naval Command and the NIMASA  4Ci centre, at Olodi Apapa, Lagos, the nation’s Commercial centre, there appears to be more troubles for smugglers and oil thieves.

Rear Admiral Hassan, who believes that the Western Naval Command could achieve all that much in dealing with the VIP, petrol smugglers in its areas of Jurisdiction due to the non- kinetic support given   to them by the Maritime Regulatory agency, had requested the same support   to be extended to the Command ‘’Operation Water Guard’, to effectively combat smuggling activities around the Badagry Channel.

Jamoh,,DG.NIMASA, Rear Admiral Hassan, FOC, Western Naval Command & Others In A pix , During The Later’s visit to the Maritime Agency

The FOC, Western Naval Command, who may have gladdened the heart of the NIMASA Director General ,that smugglers operating between Nigeria, the most populous country in the African Continent and the neighbouring Benin Republic, via the  tongeji border Island which is close to the ancient town of Badagry are in trouble as its maritime security assets operated  and maintained  by the Command since  June , 2021, when former President Muhammadu Buhari , launched the Deep Blue project  are still fully functional.

The Nigerian Navy operates and maintain the 17 Interception Boats, 16 armoured vehicles, used for coastal patrol and Two Special Mission Vessels while the Nigerian Air Force takes charge of the operation and maintenance of the agency two Special Mission aircrafts, three Special Mission Helicopters for Surveillance of Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ, and four Unmanned Aerial vehicles .

 The maritime security assets had been procured by the Buhari’s Administration with the sum of the North American country of the United states,US, $195 million which was supplied by HLSI Security Systems and Technologies Limited, an Israeli firm, which had won the contract in 2017.

True to his words of going to deal decisively with the smugglers if NIMASA, could extend the same level of  non-kinetic   support  to  the Command to its revived Operation Water Guard, there would be  no hiding place  for the  petrol smugglers along the  Badagry Channel.

Operation water Guard of western Naval Command Moves Into Action Along Badagry Water Channel InSearch Of Petrol Smugglers

As a prelude to combat the activities of the water smugglers  between the Tongeji Border Island and the Badagry  axis,  the Western Naval Command Operation Water Guard patrol Team  were said’’ to have leveraged   on the Command  electro-optic facilities and air  asset’’, to discover  multiple depots  where  thousands  of 25 litre  jerrycans , both  empty and filled  with Premium Motor Spirit , PMS, popular,  petrol, stockpiled, preparatory to shipping the filled jerry cans of petrol to  the Tongeji Border Island  and subsequently to the  Benin Republic market.

 Recall that Bello Muhammed Jibo, a former Area Controller of Seme Command  and now an Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, overseeing Lagos Zonal office,A,   and who was said to have worked  closely with the Youths, and some  paid informants  had  blocked the Badagry  Creeks and watersides  used  by the VIP petrol smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities for the over two years he was at the Command.

 This is evident going by the thousands of filled 25 litres jerrycans of petrol intercepted by the Command between December, 2020 and 2022.    Take for instance in June, 2022, the Seme Customs Command had intercepted 10,865 filled 25 litres of Jerrycans filled with petrol with a Duty Paid Value of N66 million, DPV, meant for the Beninioa market. Again, in August, through intelligence reports, the Customs Command had intercepted another set of  3,998  of Jerrycans  of 25 litres each  filled with petrol    with a DPV of  N28,924,397.00, scheduled for  the Beninoa market.

 The feat was repeated in  September, 2022, fueling speculations making the rounds  that the Petrol smugglers have backing of  security agencies personnel and informants from the border Communities to  have  encouraged them  to continue  with the  illicit activities with impunity.

Compt. Dera Nnandi, who had replaced  the then Compt. Jibo, who had got his ACG, posting to Customs Headquarters, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT,  at Seme Command  , was said to have sustained the tempo of petrol seizures. The seizure of  1,364, litres of petrol  with a DPV of N24,663,355 .00 in September  2022  and Compt. Timi Comodi,   his  successor, who had intercepted  1, 756  jerry cans of 25 litres of  petrol each in the month of October within the Badagry axis  clearly shows that the VIP , petrol  smugglers have their backers in security circles.

Operation Water Guard of Western Naval Command Personnel

The Western Command Operation Water Guard Team, may have known that the Badagry Inland and its adjoining Creeks and watersides   along the Nigeria-Benin Republic boundary is the most notorious route used by the VIP, petrol smugglers that it had taken the battle to   their illegal depots located in Iyaafin and Itsalu Communities, on Wednesday, November 15, 2023.

Rear Admiral Hassan, the FOC, Western Naval Command and who incidentally, was the Commander, of the Joint Task Operation, AWATSE, had said that ‘’ the swift and thorough action taken by the Operation Water Guard Team informed why they combed houses, schools and recreational centres in the Communities and discovered   more illicitly filled jerry cans of 25 litres each stored in the Communities   as well as empty jerrycans for future storage of petrol.

He had said that   that the Western Naval Command Operation Water Guard intervention was necessary ‘’to preventing the nefarious activities of the VIP petrol smugglers and avoiding the risk of catastrophic fires that could have dire consequences on life and property in these border Communities.

The good news   was that the Western Naval Command Flag Officer, Rear Admiral Hassan, had reassured residents of the Communities along the Badagry water Channel that there was no cause for alarm as the intervention efforts   would be intensified to curtail the activities of the economic saboteurs.  

Petrol Depots uncovered by the Navy In A a Badagry Inland Community

 Indeed, the discovery of the multiple petrol depots at the Communities along the Badagry water channel by the Operation Water Guard of the Western Naval Command  may have emboldened the Management  of the Western Marine Command, the service amphibious Command to wake up to their duties of patrolling the Badagry and Seme waters to checkmate what is happening at the Creeks and watersides.

In a related development, the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, which operates the NIMASA , Two Special Mission aircrafts, three Special Mission Helicopters and  four Unmanned  Aerial vehicles,   had said  recently that  its Operation Delta  Safe  had destroyed  five, Cotonou,  Capital of Benin Republic, boats  engaged   in illicit  Crude oil  siphoning  at Cawthorne  Channel  and Alakri in  Rivers state.

Edward  Gabkwet,  a NAF,  Commodore  and Director of Public Relations   and Information   had revealed  that  six  illegal  refining sites  in the Niger Delta state  were also  targeted to be bombed  by  the Operation Delta Safe between  November 12 and 13, 2023 , based on intelligence reports to combat  oil  theft  and checkmate the  activities of the oil thieves and smugglers.

 The NAF, spokesperson, noted that the Operation Delta Sa Safe air wing   for much of last month and now has intensified   its air operations in Rivers state as it had   struck some refining sites at  Dariama  village  in the oil Rivers  state following intelligence reports. . 

Th NAF Commodore had said that that on arrival at the location, three IRS tanks, pipes, and pumping machines as well as Cotonou boats loaded with suspected illegally refined products were sighted, engaged and subsequently destroyed.  

Many believe that with what is happening in Nigerian waters in the recent time, it clearly  shows that  the Western Naval Command Operation  Water Guard  and Operation Delta Safe in the Niger Delta region are out for the petrol smuggles and oil thieves  operating between Nigeria and Benin Republic.          

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