Oil theft: You’ve failed; abolish the Nigerian Navy right away, says HURIWA

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria () declared on Tuesday that the Nigerian Navy needs to be reorganized and unbundled since it has failed to fulfill its constitutional duties of guarding the country's maritime borders and apprehending oil thieves.

In a statement, HURIWA's National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, demanded that Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, the Chief of Naval Staff, be fired for his ongoing inability to control the multibillion-dollar oil theft trade taking place in the Niger Delta and other oil-producing regions.

The organization criticized the Federal Government for awarding a pipeline surveillance contract to Government Ekpemepulo, also known as Tompolo, a former militant leader, after realizing the Navy's failure.

The Nigerian Navy recently defended the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited in response to “insincere and overstated oil theft estimates,” which prompted HURIWA's remarks.

Recall that a spokesperson of the Navy claimed that the NNPC continues to purposefully mislead Nigerians about the issue of crude oil theft while testifying before the Senate Committee on Economic and Financial Crimes.

However, the Navy asserted in a later statement that the media entirely misrepresented what happened during a recent interactive hearing before the Senate Committee on Economic and Financial Crimes.

The Navy further asserted that it is not charging the NNPC and that it has been collaborating with the company since 1 April 2022, when Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO (OPDDB) was introduced in Onne, Rivers State, to combat the threat of crude oil theft.

The Nigerian Navy's defense of its failure to stop oil theft, illegal artisan refineries, and illegal oil bunkering in the creek, among other criminalities, is embarrassing and shameful, to put it mildly, according to HURIWA's Onwubiko.

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The Nigerian Navy was given authority to protect the country's maritime borders and provide general maritime security by the 1999 Constitution, the Armed Forces Act (CAP A20), and the National Defense Policy (NDP) (2006).

But the Navy has done a terrible job of catching oil thieves. The Navy should be ashamed that Tompolo's private company was given the authority to carry out her statutory duties in a sovereign country. This private company has discovered numerous oil bunkering operations in the last three months, including the use of stadium-sized vessels for oil theft, which the Navy promptly set on fire to cover its tracks.

Nigerians don't fall for tricks. It is well known that government officials, oil thieves, and security personnel—especially naval officers—cooperate.

Or how can one account for oil thieves operating without incident in the creeks for more than ten years, as well as the burning of one of the Navy-captured vessels? The cartel stealing Nigeria's wealth must unquestionably be known to the Navy. Because of its failure, the NNPC has no place in the creeks.

“The hierarchy of the Nigerian Navy requires thorough unbundling. Sadly, because of nepotism, President Muhammadu refused to dismiss Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, the Chief of Naval Staff, for his inability to show leadership by identifying those in the Navy who were complicit in crude oil thefts, despite the fact that the President is also the petroleum minister.

“Buhari should be more interested in apprehending and punishing these oil thieves, or else he will soon be held accountable for not using state resources to apprehend the thieves of crude oil,” the statement continued.

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