The Nigerian Navy has absolved the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) of any culpability in the lingering crude oil theft, which has led to the humongous loss of revenue to the government and disturbingly polluted the operating environment.
The Navy in a statement signed by Commodore AO Ayo-Vaughan, its Director of Information, asked the public to disregard a report in an undisclosed national newspaper that stated otherwise.
Ayo-Vaughan explained that on the contrary, the Navy was working closely with the national oil company to arrest and prosecute oil thieves and pipeline vandals, who have fractured the crude production process.
He added that what transpired at a recent interactive hearing before the Senate Committee on Economic and Financial Crimes was completely misconstrued by the said newspaper.
He 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 April 1, 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 are held 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 two 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 has been and will continue to work with NNCPL to fashion out solutions and remedies to the challenges in Nigeria’s maritime environment concerning the oil industry for the overall good of Nigeria and indeed for all well-meaning Nigerians”, the statement read.
Ayo-Vaughan revealed that top on the list of the mutual efforts is the planned return of the ‘Fisicalisation’ process, which was stopped in the late 1980s, whereby personnel of the Navy then, will now again be present at offshore oil loading terminals /platforms 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 was sponsored by NNPCL and trained in the UAE and 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”, the statement added.
The Senate Committee on Economic and Financial Crimes recently summoned a stakeholder meeting during which relevant agencies implementing the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act, 2022 briefed the Committee at the National Assembly.
The committee demanded explanations on why the country continued to nurse an endless revenue hemorrhage as a result of crude oil theft, aside from the devastating impact on the environment of the host communities.
The committee also wondered why the Navy, an institution created to safeguard the nation’s territorial waters, has not been able to address the horror but insists the waterways are secured.
It particularly expressed worries that pressure oil pipelines on the seabed have been ruptured by oil thieves and used as a conduit to siphon crude.
But the Naval representative at the event explained that the challenge was due to the criminal activities inshore by the illegal local refiners who tap into the export lines many of which have not been in operation since early this year, 2022 resulting in opportunity lost.