By Augustine Ehikioya
Worried by media report, the Nigerian Navy on Sunday explained that it didn’t indict the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) during the interactive hearing before the Senate Committee on Economic and Financial Crimes.
But rather, the Navy said, the NNPCL has been assisting towards curbing crude oil theft in the country.
A statement issued by the Naval Director of Information, Commodore, AO Ayo-Vaughan and made available to Security Watch Africa (SWA), stressed that the Navy was misrepresented in the statement alleging insincerity and exaggeration of theft figures by NNPCL.
The statement said “The attention of the Naval Headquarters, Abuja has been drawn to a publication in a National Daily of 4 December, 2022 with the heading, ‘NNPC Not Sincere about Oil Theft, Exaggerating Figures-Navy’.
“The said statement was purportedly made at an interactive hearing before the Senate Committee on Economic and Financial Crimes during which the relevant agencies implementing the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act, 2022 briefed the Committee at the National Assembly.”
The Navy Headquarters, in the press statement, explained that it repeatedly mentioned before the committee that it was not indicting the NNPCL.
It said “The Navy representative at the Senate hearing repeatedly mentioned that the Navy is not indicting the NNPCL in any way and has been working with the National Oil Giant to curb the menace of crude oil theft since the 1 April, 2022 when Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO (OPDDB) was launched in Onne, Rivers State as a mutual effort and synergy between the Navy and NNPCL to address issues of crude oil theft, rampant illegal artisan refineries and illegal oil bunkering amongst other criminalities in the creeks.
“At the strategic level, almost daily and regular consultations, engagements and meetings hold between the Navy and NNPCL to review the situation, appraise the approach to curb the menace and proffer ways forward.
“Pertinently, to attempt to imply otherwise will be a gross misrepresentation of the cordial and mutual working relationship between the 2 organizations.
“The said allegation of insincerity and exaggeration by NNPCL as captured by the journalist of the Daily is not therefore a fair wording of the actual discourse that transpired because what was said and what was meant was inaccurately captured particularly in the wording of the heading of the report.
“Again, for the avoidance of doubt, the Nigerian Navy under the able leadership of Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo CFR has been and will continue to work with NNPCL to fashion out solutions and remedies to the challenges in Nigeria’s Maritime Environment as concerning the Oil Industry for the overall good of Nigeria and indeed for all well-meaning Nigerians.
“Foremost of these mutual efforts is the planned return of the ‘Fiscalisation’ process which was stopped in the late 1980s, whereby personnel of the Navy as at then, will now again be present at offshore oil loading terminals/platform to physically sight the meter reading at the point of loading of crude oil to tankers at sea.
“The first set of naval personnel to soon commence this task were sponsored by NNPCL and trained in the UAE and at Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State. There is thus a harmonious working relationship between the NN and NNPCL. The general public is thus requested to disregard the misrepresented report,” it stated.
Shedding light on the issues discussed at the Senate hearing, the press statement said “The report indicated that the Chairman of the committee, demanded explanations on why the country continued to experience cases of oil theft if the waterways were secured.
“The distinguished Senator had queried that, “the oil theft issue has been a very worrisome one to every Nigerian and more importantly, it has negatively impacted our economy. How come the Navy hasn’t been able to solve the issue of oil theft and if the Navy is claiming that the waterways are secured, why are there still cases of oil theft?”
“Equally it was mentioned that another Senator noted that at an oversight function, the NNPCL said crude pipelines were being tapped from the pressure pipe under sea and crude oil was usually transferred from there into vessels, and this had been happening for nine years. He reportedly asked, “Is the Navy aware or not of the tapping going on under the sea?”
“The questions were all responded to and in the course of responding, it was explained that the challenge is due to the criminal activity inshore by the illegal local refiners in tapping into the export lines many of which have not been in operation since early this year, 2022 resulting in opportunity lost.
“Also, the major terminals have not been able to process crude for export since around February/March and this inability to process as export is reported as stolen oil since it is practically impossible to steal and move 100,000 barrels per day out of the creeks,” the statement explained.