By Augustine Ehikioya
Nigeria, no doubt, has lost so much money to economic sabotage in the form of oil theft in the Niger Delta region of the country.
The oil product being the mainstay of the Nigeria’s economy since few years after her independence in 1960 has not only been stolen by various cabals for personal gains, but it has been massively wasted during hostilities in the region, resulting in oil pipelines vandalization and water pollution in the area.
Definitely, economic sabotage is a weighty crime against the State that shouldn’t be handled with kid gloves by any serious economic-minded nation.
So, very shocking was the statement on Friday 16th of June, 2023 by a Niger Delta leader and former agitator, Mujahid Asari Dokubo declaring that 99 percent of the oil theft in the region is traceable to the Military.
This statement made while speaking with State House correspondents after his visit to President Bola Tinubu is seen in many quarters as a cheap blackmail.
The utterance has left not a few Nigerians dumbfounded, especially looking back at the various oil thieves reportedly arrested by the Nigerian Navy over the years and the many illegal oil refineries and bunkeries it has destroyed in the region.
It is also very interesting and swift to note that the Nigerian Navy immediately exonerated itself and demanded Asari Dokubo to name the oil thieves in the Military.
Challenging Asari-Dokubo to name the officers involved in crude oil theft, the spokesman of the Nigerian Navy, Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan, also described the allegation as “spurious and unguarded”.
In an interview with some media outfits, Ayo-Vaughan said “Let him bring the names. The Nigerian Navy is interested in the names of those involved because the Navy has no tolerance for any form of criminalities whatsoever, not even that height of theft as alleged by Asari Dokubo.
“The Navy has an operation in the Niger-Delta that has been running for over one year plus to curb oil theft. Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO has denied oil thieves more than N76billion worth of crude oil. The money that would have helped them to further increase their illegal artisanal refineries.
“So, the Navy is actively fighting oil theft. For anybody to make such spurious allegations, bring the names. He is in the Niger Delta, he has boys in the Niger Delta.
“The company that was given a contract by the NNPC on pipeline surveillance, they are working with the Nigerian Navy and Operation DELTA SAFE in the Niger-Delta to curb oil theft.
“For somebody to just make such unguarded statement, bring the names. You know that there is an operation (Operation DAKATA BARAWO) going on in the Niger Delta being run by the Nigerian Navy since April last year. The Navy has been running it in synergy with the NNPC.
“NNPC holds regular meetings with the Chief of Naval Staff to review the operations. Just last week, the Chief Executive of NUPREC was here to have a meeting with CNS. Just two days ago, the management team for the other one on downstream regulatory authority were also here to have a meeting. For us, if you want to make such spurious allegations, bring the names. Simple!” he stated.
The latest accusation has also necessitated the need to look at what has happened to those arrested for oil theft over the years in order to have an idea of those behind oil theft in the country. The Nigerian Navy has always handed over arrested oil thieves to other government agencies with prosecutory powers, since it cannot prosecute.
From the series of press statements issued by the Nigerian Navy since 1st of April 2022, it made public the billions of naira and dollars it removed from the mouths of oil thieves, the arrests made and the recoveries.
Since the flagging off of its operation in April last year there have been almost everyday disclosure of the successes of Navy in the fight against oil thieves.
Flagging off the Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO on 1st of April 2022, it said “The Nigerian Navy in partnership with Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Friday 1 April 2022 flagged off an operation code named ‘DAKATAR DA BARAWO’’ which means ‘stop the thief’ in Hausa language.
“The operation is aimed at curbing crude oil theft (COT) and illegal oil bunkering with a view to ensuring the economic prosperity of Nigeria. The operation will be conducted within Bonny, Brass, Forcados, Escravos, Igbokoda and parts of Lagos State.
“The identified objectives of the operation are to secure critical maritime infrastructure, create enabling environment for the sustenance of desired level of hydrocarbon production, safety of shipping and other economic activities within the maritime environment in support of national development.
“Others include restoration of investors’ confidence in Nigeria’s maritime domain and ensuring safe movement of vessels in the waterways within the nation’s maritime domain.
“Furthermore, OPERATION DAKATAR DA BARAWO will involve dominating the Nation’s backwaters through aggressive and intelligence driven patrols and also dedicated monitoring of pipelines, blocking identified strategic estuaries to prevent conveyance of stolen crude oil from inshore to sea and maintaining credible presence along the coastline of adjoining areas prone to COT.
“Additionally, the Operation involves aerial surveillance as well as insertion of Special Forces to conduct clearance operations at identified hotspots and areas,” it said.
A press statement on the 22 April 2022 entitled “OPERATION DAKATAR DA BARAWO: NIGERIAN NAVY RECORDS MORE GIANT STRIDES IN FIGHT AGAINST CRUDE OIL THEFT,” said “In furtherance of Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO (OPDDB) and the Nigerian Navy’s unrelenting effort in checking increasing Crude Oil Theft (COT) and related acts of economic sabotage in the South South geopolitical zone, several arrests and seizures have been recorded recently.
“On 15 April 2022, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) DELTA at Warri, deactivated an Illegal Refining Site (IRS) around Sara Creek. The IRS had 16 ovens, 16 metal storage tanks and 3 dug-out pits cumulatively laden with about 500,000 litres of illegally refined ago, 700,000 litres of stolen crude oil, a generator and 4 pumping machines.
“Also, an IRS at Asugbo Creek in Warri was discovered with 6 ovens, 12 metal storage tanks and 5 dugout pits cumulatively laden with about 600,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil, 200,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO and about 150,000 litres of sludge.
“Similarly, on 21 April 2022, an IRS at Lelemu Creek in Warri South-West was discovered. During the operation, 19 ovens, 26 metal storage tanks and 2 dugout pits laden with about 250,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil and 50,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO were destroyed.
“Furthermore, in order to ensure effective deactivation of IRS, NNS DELTA reactivated its swamp buggy operations. Accordingly, on 21 April 2022, an identified IRS around Egwa Creek in Warri which was earlier earmarked for swamp buggy operation was destroyed.
“During the operation, 16 ovens, 31 metal storage tanks and 7 dugout pits cumulatively laden with about 850,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil were deactivated.
“Sequel to earlier coordinates gotten from over flight reconnaissance, Forward Operating Base (FOB) FORMOSO in Bayelsa State on 19 April 2022, located an IRS at Ereweibio Creek in Brass LGA. Accordingly, 7 large cooking ovens, 10 large metal storage tanks and drums cumulatively laden with about 400,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO and 20,000 litres of suspected illegally refined PMS were discovered.
“The site also had 5 large dug out pits cumulatively laden with about 700,000 litres of suspected illegally sourced crude oil. The team also recovered 2 pumping machines, 1 gasoline generator, 1 submersible pump and 1 chainsaw machine. Additionally, some identity cards and receipt of purchase were gotten from the scene.
“No arrest was made as the suspects were believed to have fled the site upon sighting gunboats. All discovered items were deactivated accordingly.
“These arrests and seizures from the ongoing OPDDB have denied oil thieves and criminals of about N200 million and $700,000 worth of products since inception.
“It is indicative of the Nigerian Navy’s resolve to ensure zero tolerance for COT, illegal bunkering and related economic crimes in the Nation’s maritime area and the South South geopolitical zone in particular. Economic saboteurs and their sponsors are therefore warned to desist from these unpatriotic and criminal acts,” it added.
In another statement issued on 4 May 2022 entitled ‘OPERATION DAKATAR DA BARAWO: NIGERIAN NAVY RECORDS REMARKABLE STRIDES IN THE ONE MONTH FIGHT AGAINST CRUDE OIL THEFT’ the Navy giving it’s successes summary for 23-30 April 2022, said “In summary, Week 4 of OPDDB witnessed the recovery of over 2,178,500 litres (13,703 barrels) of stolen crude oil, about 787,500,000 litres of AGO and 20,000 litres of Kerosene all valued above N1.7 billion.
“Pertinently, with respect to previous seizures and recoveries during OPDDB for the month of April 2022, the Nigerian Navy denied oil thieves andd economic saboteurs an estimated Ten Billion Seven Hundred and One Million Seven Hundred and Ninety-Three Thousand Fifty-Two Naira Five Kobo (N10,701,793,052.5k) worth of crude oil and related products for the period under review.
“The breakdown is as follows: AGO 6,558,000 litres @720/litre – N4,721,760,000, Crude Oil – 16, 423, 414 litres (103,291.91 barrels) @ $105/barrels – $10,845,650.55 (N5,965,107,802.5k), DPK – 319,150 litres @ N235/litre – N7,500,250, PMS – 45,000 litre @ N165/litre – N7,425,000
“Total – N10,701,793,052.5k, Sludge – 650,000 litres, IRS deactivated – 148, Wooden Boats Destroyed – 36”
Another statement issued in July 2022 entitled ‘OPERATION DAKATAR DA BARAWO: UPDATE ON NIGERIAN NAVY FIGHT AGAINST CRUDE OIL THEFT FROM 1-13 JUNE 2022,’ said “The Summary of data and achievements of OPDDB from 1 – 14 July 2022 is thus as follows:
AGO – 1,411,540 litres @ N820/litre = N1,157,462,800, Crude Oil – (2,957,000 litres) (18598.97 barrels) (@ $120/barrel) = ($2,609,280) = N2,231,876.4
“Total Approximated Value of Products Denied Oil Thieves from 1 – 14 July 2022 is One Billion, One Hundred and Fifty Nine Million, Six Hundred and Ninety Four Thousand, Six Hundred and Seventy Six Naira Forty Kobo (N1,159,694,676.40) Only.
“The following were also recorded:
Destroyed IRS – 12, Arrested Suspects – 5, Arrested Boats – 8, Arrested Vehicles – 3, Destroyed Ovens – 51, Destroyed Large Pits –67, Destroyed Storage Tanks – 64, Recovered Outboard Engine –4, Recovered Pumping Machines – 21,” it stated.
Also in another statement dated 5 July 2022 entitled ‘OPERATION DAKATAR DA BARAWO: UPDATE ON NIGERIAN NAVY FIGHT AGAINST CRUDE OIL THEFT FROM 20 – 30 JUNE 2022 AND SUMMARIES OF ACHIEVEMENTS FOR THE MONTH OF JUNE 2022 AND THE FIRST 90 DAYS’, the Navy said “The Summary of data and achievements of OPDDB from 20 – 30 June 2022 is thus as follows: AGO – 1,301,750 litres @ N820/litre = N1,067,435,000, Crude Oil – 21,744 barrels (@ $120/barrel) = N1,083,555,705.6 ($2,609,280), DPK – 154,500 litres @ N679.54/litre = N104,988,930
“Total Approximated Value of Products Denied Oil Thieves from 20 – 30 June 2022 is Two Billion Two Hundred and Fifty Five Million Nine Hundred and Seventy Nine Thousand Six Hundred and Thirty Five Naira Six Kobo (N2,255,979,635.6) Only.
“The following were also recorded: Destroyed IRS – 14, Arrested Suspects – 12, Rescued – 2, Arrested Vessel – 1, Arrested Boats – 16, Arrested Vehicles – 4, Destroyed Ovens – 88, Destroyed Large Pits – 52, Destroyed Storage Tanks – 119, Recovered Outboard Engine – 1, Recovered Generators – 6, Recovered Inverter – 1, Recovered Wielding Machines – 14, Recovered Pumping Machines – 21, Recovered Hoses – 7, Recovered Filing Machine – 1
“Total approximated value of products denied oil thieves for the Month of June 2022 is Seven Billion Thirty Six Million Five Hundred and Thirty Four Thousand Five Hundred and Seventy Eight Naira Ninety Six Kobo (N7,036,534,578.96) only.
“Meanwhile for the 90 days of OPDDB (1 April to 30 June 2022) the value of crude oil and products denied oil thieves and criminals is about Twenty Four Billion Eighty Two Million Six Thousand One Hundred and Three Naira Ninety Six Kobo (N24,082,006,103.96) only. Details of the products are as follows: AGO – 21,698,562.59 litres, Crude Oil – 36,707,420.16 litres/230,882.73 barrels, DPK – 649,775.38 litres PMS – 345,000.49 litres, Sludge – 380,000 litres, LPFO – 66,000 litres
In a press statement issued in August 2022 entitled ‘OPERATION DAKATAR DA BARAWO: NIGERIAN NAVY SUSTAINS FIGHT AGAINST CRUDE OIL THEFT’ the Navy gave the summary of it successes as follows “Cumulatively, a total of 17 IRS, 143 metal storage tanks, 11 wooden boats, 2 speed boats, 111 dugout pits, 115 ovens and one tanker were appropriately handled during the period under review.
“Additionally, about 1,278,000 litres of crude oil, 1,450,800 litres of AGO and 14,575 litres of PMS were denied oil thieves.
“The Summary of data and achievements of OPDDB from 1 – 14 August 2022 is thus as follows:
AGO – 13549.35 barrels (@ $120/barrel) = N691,829,811.00 ($1,625,922), Crude Oil – 13,856.44 barrels (@$120/barrel) = N707,509,826.40 ($1,662,772.8), PMS – 14,575 litres (@N175/litres) = N2,550,625.
“Total Approximated Value of Products Denied Oil Thieves from 1 – 21 August 2022 is One Billion, Four Hundred and One Million, Eight Hundred and Ninety Thousand, Two Hundred and Sixty Two Naira Forty Kobo (N1,401,890,262.40) Only.
“The following were also recorded:
Metal Storage Tanks 215, Wooden Boats 23, Speed Boats 2, Pits 137, Ovens 171, IRS 26, Pumping Machine 2, Generator 1
Outboard Engine 1.”
Another statement issued in September 2022, gave the summary of its successes as “Cumulatively, a total of 15 IRS, 72 metal storage tanks, 7 wooden boats, 31 dugout pits, 64ovens, 21 reservoirs 2 vehicles and one tanker were appropriately handled during the period under review.
“Additionally, oil thieves were denied about 952,000 litres of crude oil and 350,500 litres of illegally refined AGO.
“Significantly, there was a decrease in the number of IRS, wooden boats, pits and ovens while an increase in numbers of metal storage tanks and reservoirs was recorded. Similarly, a decrease in the quantity of crude oil and AGO were recorded.
“The Summary of data and achievements of OPDDB from 12 – 18 September 2022 is thus as follows: AGO –2204.58 barrels @ $120/barrel) = $264,549.6
Crude Oil –5987.90 barrels (@$120/barrel) = $718,548
“Total Approximated Value of Products Denied Oil Thieves from 12 – 18 September 2022 is Four Hundred and Twenty One Million, Nine Hundred Twenty Five Thousand, Eight Hundred Twenty Seven Naira Ninety Seven Kobo (N421,925,827.97 only.
“The following were also recorded:
Metal Storage Tanks 72, Wooden Boats 7, Speed Boats 2, Pits 31, Ovens 64, IRS 15, Pumping Machine 2, Generator 1, Tanker 1,
For October 2022, the Navy in its statement entitled “OPERATION DAKATAR DA BARAWO: NIGERIAN NAVY SUSTAINS SIX MONTHS OF FIGHT AGAINST CRUDE OIL THEFT AND MARITIME ILLEGALITIES”, said “Additionally, oil thieves were denied about 16,616.35 bbls (2,641,999 litres) of crude oil and 608,000 litres of illegally refined AGO, amounting to One Billion, Sixty Million, Five Hundred and Forty Five Thousand Six Hundred and Seventy Two Naira, Forty Two Kobo (N1,060,545,672.42) only.
AGO – 3824.20 barrels @ $120/barrel) = $458,904
Crude Oil – 16,616.35 barrels (@$120/barrel) = $1,993,962
“Cumulatively, the Summary of data and achievements of OPDDB since inception 6 months ago is thus as follows: AGO – 141,271.66 barrels @ $120/barrel) = $16,952,599.2 Crude Oil – 325,398.38 barrels (@$120/barrel) = $39,047,805.6
DPK – 1,379,000 litres@ N786.88/litre = N1,085,107,520
PMS – 132,665 litres@ N189.46/litre = N25,134,710.9
“Total Approximated Value of Products Denied Oil Thieves from April – October 2022 is Thirty Two Billion, Three Hundred and Sixty Eight Million, Four Hundred and Eight Thousand, Two Hundred and Fourteen Naira, Forty Five Kobo (N32,368,408,214.45) only.
“The following were also recorded: Arrested suspects 107, Arrested vessels 12, Deactivated IRS 293,
Deactivated storage facilities 4,582, Arrested Wooden Boats 354, Demobilized Vehicles 50, Seized Speedboats 50, Pumping machines 249, Outboard Engines 163, Welding Machines 8, Generator Sets 32,” the statement said.
After one year fight against oil theft, the Nigerian Navy in a press statement in April 2023 entitled “NIGERIAN NAVY OPERATION DAKATAR DA BARAWO: ONE YEAR MILESTONES,” said “Evidently, NN’s commitment to Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO in the last one year has significantly contributed in fighting oil theft as well as other illegalities within Nigeria’s maritime environment up to the Gulf of Guinea.
“It is worthy of mention that the Operation has identified and halted numerous areas of breaches on pipelines and illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta. To a large extent, the Operation has also tracked and arrested oil thieves and secure oil and gas installations for improved oil and gas production and economic prosperity of the country.
“In the last week of a year into the Operation, specifically from 27 March to 2 April 2023, various NN platforms deployed for the Operation continued to conduct aggressive patrols against oil theft in the country.
“Notably, from 27 – 31 March 2023, NNS DELTA anti Crude Oil Theft (anti-COT) on routine patrol intercepted a wooden boat and a speed boat around Opumami Creek in Warri North LGA of Delta State. The boats were cumulatively laden with about 1,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO packed in sacks.
“Accordingly, the boats and product were towed to a safe location and handled appropriately while one outboard engine was recovered to the Base. Also, the patrol team discovered one Illegal Refining Sites (IRS) with 5 metal storage tanks, 3 ovens, 2 dugout pits and 2 trampoline storage filled with about 39.94 barrels (6,350 litres) of stolen crude oil and 20,000 litres of suspected illegally refined AGO around Obodo Creek. The site was also deactivated and the product was handled appropriately.
“From 27 March to 2 April 2023, NNS PATHFINDER continued its swamp buggy operations at Krakrama and Ke general area. The Team discovered and
dismantled 5 IRS, 36 ovens with 56 reservoirs and 4 wooden boats laden with unspecified quantity of stolen crude oil. It is worth mentioning that the operations recovered one AK 47 rifle and empty magazine. The sites and products discovered were handled appropriately.
“Similarly, on 30 March 2023, Naval Flying Unit (NFU) conducted patrols around Alakiri and Ijawkiri general area in Port-Harcourt metropolis. During the patrol, some IRS were sighted with ovens and wooden boats laden with substance suspected to be stolen crude oil. The sites have been marked for further action.
“In addition, the patrol also sighted bubbling suspected to be from a damaged underwater gas pipeline. Same was communicated to the concerned company for necessary action.
“Also, from 27 to 31 March 2023, FOB ESCRAVOS anti-COT patrol team in conjunction with Chevron Pipeline Maintenance team commenced swamp buggy operation around Sara, Saghara and Ubegungun Creek in Warri South West LGA of Delta State. The sites had empty drums, hoses, pumping machines, metal couplings and 8 dugout pits filled with water.
“Also, the team discovered another IRS around Agogboro Creek with 2 drums filled with about 500 litres of suspected stolen crude oil. Consequently, the illegal refining facilities were dismantled and the product was handled appropriately.
“On 1 April 2023, FOB IGBOKODA patrol team deployed to Obe Maagba axis of Awoye in Ilage LGA Ondo State located an IRS with some metal storage tanks and dugout pits filled with about 1,257.86 barrels (200,000 litres) of suspected stolen crude oil. The site was deactivated and product handled appropriately.
“Cumulatively, a total of 8 illegal refining sites, 7 metal storage tanks, 5 wooden boat, one fibre
boat, 37 metal ovens and 56 reservoirs as well as dugout pits were deactivated and appropriately handled within the week under review. Additionally, oil thieves were denied about 1,300.94 barrels (206,850 litres) of stolen crude oil and 21,000 litres of illegally refined AGO.
“A review of Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO in a period of one year revealed that approximately 728,021.91 barrels of crude oil, worth $70,618,125.00 (N32,484,337,624.02); 44,572,873 litres of illegally refined AGO worth N36,59,755,860.00; 287,205.70 litres of PMS worth N53,133,054.50 and 2,460,700 litres of DPK worth N1,993,167,000.
“Cumulatively the sum of Seventy One Billion Eighty Million Three Hundred and Ninety Three Thousand Five Hundred and Thirty Eight Naira (N71,080,393,538) that could have been used to perpetrate acts inimical to national security and prosperity was denied oil thieves.
“Furthermore, 199 suspects persons were detained with 17 vessels arrested for lifting illegal refined petroleum products. Notably, an average total of 433 illegal refining sites with about 5,102 storage facilities, 1,388 dugout pits as well as over 434 massive wooden boats were deactivated and confiscated.
“Also, a total of 328 illegal refining ovens and 282 pumping machines were demobilized while 57 vehicles, 73 speedboats, 178 outboard engines, 8 welding machines and 32 generators were seized.
“Pertinently, Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO has made tremendous strides in curtailing oil theft in the country,” it added.
The efforts of the NN and other security agencies, the statement said, has led to increased oil production of 1.7m bpd which according to NNPC is a step further from the 900,000 bpd obtained in July 2022.
Continuing, the statement said “Furthermore, recent NNPC reports revealed that the increase in crude oil production is a testimony to the renewed security architecture employed against crude oil theft.
“Before now, NNPC reports show that Nigeria was losing, on the average, over 700,000 bpd, 21 million barrels per month and up to $1.9 billion every 30 days.
“The successes recorded in the nation’s oil and gas industry is essentially as a result of the improved security situation in the Niger Delta region, orchestrated by the NN through Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO in collaboration with other security agencies and stakeholders,” it said.
All these disclosure of arrests, destruction of illegal refinery sites and other recoveries by the Nigerian Navy in separate press statements in the past one year have really made it very dufficult for some Nigerians to believe the new accusation by Asari Dokubo.
The Nigerian Army has also through the Director Of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, declared that any officer implicated will not be spared.
While hoping that the latest revelation is not an underground plot to give the military a bad name and quicken changes at the top hierarchies in order to make the illegal oil theft business return back to its unhindered flourishing status, President Bola Tinubu is an experienced politician that won’t take any accusation on its face value without thorough investigation.
Releasing the names and evidences of the military officers involved in oil theft in the country will really be the best starting point for such investigation.
A question also urgently begging for answer as thrown up by this latest development is how many of those arrested for oil theft by the Nigerian Navy and handed over to the prosecution agencies over the years have so far been convicted and sent to jail.
Or what are the challenges stopping the prosecution agencies from concluding investigations, revealing identities of the oil thieves and putting them behind bars.
All these will really go a long way to uncover the economic saboteurs and the real oil thieves in the country.