…calls for credible investigation

Amid reports of seemingly intractable crude oil theft that has held down Nigeria’s oil production in recent times, a Niger Delta-based transparency group has petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over the alleged involvement of personnel of the Nigerian Navy in cases of crude oil theft, trade, and pipeline vandalism in the oil-producing region.

The group, Coalition of Niger Delta Stakeholders Forum, in a petition dated January 18, 2023 and addressed to the president, said some personnel of the Nigerian Navy were alleged to be colluding with some individuals to engage in crude oil theft, trade, and pipeline vandalism which were impeding the efforts of the various newly engaged anti-crude oil surveillance contractors.

It also called for credible investigations against the leadership of the Nigeria Navy on allegations of insubordination, theft of national resources and acts of treason.

“The fight against oil theft will be one of your greatest achievements and legacies,” the group told Buhari in the petition signed by Engr. Dr. Akpan O. Essien, Chief Williams Erepatei, Barrister Adeleke S. Olubunmi, Engr. James Ipalibo, Dr. Mrs. Ejiro P. Obohvie, on behalf of the Coalition of Niger Delta Stakeholders Forum.

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“Mr. President, as the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources, we must bring to your attention the progress made by the Group Managing Director of the NNPCL, Mallam Mele Kyari, who should be commended for taking the bull by the horn, even with threats to his life by the shadowy figures of the illicit oil trade,” it said.

The group said one of the biggest problems and obstacles to the success of the fight against pipeline vandalism and oil theft appeared to come from the security institutions mandated to secure and guard the country’s territorial waterways and government infrastructure. To buttress this point, it cited the federal government’s withdrawal of the services of the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps from protecting pipeline infrastructure after much outcry backed with evidence of the collusion between the Corps and oil thieves in ripping the nation off.

“In a disturbing video and audio recordings gotten from our sources in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the Nigerian Navy it seems are neck deep in the illicit trade of pipeline vandalisation and oil theft. After a vessel suspected with loaded stolen crude was apprehended by Tantita Security operatives on the 14 of January 2023, the Nigerian Navy it seems appeared from the blue to beat up and later interrogate the operatives of Tantita Security aboard the suspect vessel, all these happening even after Tantita Security operatives tried to explain and reason with the Navy about its now globally known mandate to fight illegal and stolen crude in the Niger Delta of Nigeria,” the group said.

“This gets even more embarrassing to think that President Buhari, as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces who also doubles as the substantive Minister of Petroleum, is directly responsible for the chain of command of the Armed Forces and the operation against oil theft,” it said.