• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

INTERVIEW: Nigeria’s naval chief says crude oil theft figures unrealistic

INTERVIEW: Nigeria’s naval chief says crude oil theft figures unrealistic

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said last month that the country loses 400,000 barrels of crude oil daily to theft but in a fresh interview with local television station, Channels, Admiral Gambo, the country’s chief of naval staff said the figure attributed to theft was “outrageous and unrealistic”.

Here’s a full text of Gambo’s interview on August 29

What is the link between the Navy and other security forces in tackling Nigeria’s security challenges?

“I will say all over the world, it is a known fact that no organisation or agency has proven itself completely capable of addressing crimes such as terrorism and insurgency alone, which is currently subsisting within the political clime of our great country. And therefore, this means that efficient security can only be realised through collective effort rather than by individual agencies acting independently. Of course, within the context of military aid to civil authorities and civil power, the Nigerian Navy collaborates with sister services and other security agencies on various fronts in tackling insecurity in Nigeria. Of course, it is noteworthy that the Nigerian Navy also instituted inter-agency cooperation as one of its transformation plans for 2021–2030. In it, the inter-agencies’ engagement fosters shared vision on accomplishment of maritime security tasks, and, of course, information sharing leads to successful arrests and prosecutions in our operations. I must say that one of the outcomes of such cooperation we have with sister services and other security agencies is the launch of the harmonised standard operation and arrest and prosecution of persons and vessels in Nigeria’s maritime environment, which was launched in January 2017. These documents streamline and harmonise procedures of relevant agencies on the issues of handling exhibits and suspects of maritime crimes.

Furthermore, considering that prosecution of maritime offences involves several agencies, the enactment of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offenses Act of 2019, launched by this current government, became necessary as a unifying document. Of course, as you know, it is there in the public space. A notable conviction using this document was the prosecution of ten pirates that were sentenced by a high court in Lagos to twelve years imprisonment in July last year—2021 precisely.

Read also: Peter Obi wants Nigerians linked to oil theft punished

And of course, crimes keep evolving with their dynamics, with strategies and enabling laws that will always be amended to fit the situation that subsists.

What is the situation with the Navy as regards the state of equipment and personnel?

With regards to equipping the Nigerian Navy to actualize its constitutional mandate, I would like to, first of all, appreciate the uncommon support from Mr. President, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic, Muhammadu Buhari, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, through the fleet recapitalization support he has given, which led to the acquisition of several vessels, even including air assets for the Nigerian Navy. In particular, in last year-2021, the Nigerian Navy took delivery of one hydrographic survey ship, which was christened Nigerian Navy ship “LaLong”. As I speak, it is currently surveying Nigerian offshore waters using state-of-the-art survey equipment on board the ship. And this survey that is being carried out is positioning the Nigerian Navy in support of the Federal Government’s commitment towards a sustainable enrollment of its blue economy, which as it is, is the future of the world… Again in May this year, the Nigerian Navy also took delivery of a new landing ship transport of 100 metres in length, also christened “NNS KADA”, meaning crocodile in the Hausa language. It was inducted into the fleet and it has enhanced deterrence against maritime crimes in addition to its unique role in support of its non-kinetic operations. Here it could serve as a hospital ship when it is equipped with such, it could deliver humanitarian assistance to any country around the world.

In particular, in support of peacekeeping operations on the 6th of this month, the landing ship transportation embarks on its first official trip with military hardware and logistics for the Nigerian contingent that is deployed to the ECOWAS stabilisation support mission in Guinea Bissau. As we speak, NNS KADA has just returned from her voyage, and she is berthed in Lagos. And of course, in furtherance of these acquisitions, other initiated efforts are ongoing for the construction of two high-end endurance offshore patrol vessels, which the President approved last year, August. Very soon, by early September, we will be going to Turkey-Dansair Shipyard for the launching of the “kill”, which flags off the building of the ship for Nigeria. We also have fast attack craft and unmanned aerial vehicles, which are expected in the country by the end of the year. Of course, I must not fail to mention that the Nigerian Navy is engaged in a shipbuilding endeavour which commenced in 2007. This has equally yielded dividends with the construction of three defence boats of 43 metres in length—namely, we have NNS ANDONI, NNS KARADUA, and the third, which is NNS ORJI, which was commissioned among all others by Mr. President on the 9th of December 2021.

As we speak during the same event he also led the “kill” for the construction of the fourth and the fifth steward defense boats which is likely going to be pitched on 45 metres and we hope that will also be delivered in good time. So the indigenous shipbuilding by the Nigerian Navy dockyard is gaining attraction and patronage by some of our neighbours within ECOWAS and ECAS. Another challenge we face is the habit of disseminating unconfirmed and uncomplimentary statements, either due to misinformation or mischievous intentions regarding our operations. For example, there have been conflicting publications from various sources attributing oil losses to oil theft, which is blamed on inadequate security, casting aspersions on security agencies on security agencies and all that.

In as much as there is no perfect system, the phenomenon of crude oil theft and crude losses must be properly de-conflicted in order to proffer lasting solutions to the menace which is currently bedeviling our economic resources. We need to understand the difference between oil theft and oil loss. In this case, why oil theft is syphoning crude oil from vandalised pipes into badges. Oil losses occur when there is no production, especially during short ins and force majeure, as the Federal Government does not earn the desired revenue it should. Losses also occur as a result of metering errors on the operating platforms as read. But however, the volume of crude all shot in from ‘no production’ are often added to figures for oil theft instead of declaring them as oil losses which should not be.
Some sources also claim that about 20,000 to 200,000 barrels per day are being considered as stolen. Most of these claims are definitely outrageous and unrealistic.

Let us briefly analyze this, for instance, a 100,000 barrels of crude oil is equivalent to 15.8 million litres of crude oil, which will require a five-ton batch making 3,160 trips per day to convey the product out of the creek. How do you pass the estuaries with this? Most of these claims are definitely outrageous and unrealistic.

Let’s assume you have so many batches, because of the time required to carry these products that means you will entirely close navigable waters heading out to sea through the estuaries to transship them into a mother vessel that will eventually take them out of the country. Of course this is most unlikely because of the heightened presence of security agencies in the maritime environment as well as the launch of the subsisting operation of ‘dantach de barawo’ by the Nigerian Navy including of course the deployment of the maritime domain awareness facilities like the ‘falcon eye’.

These facilities have in the last four weeks detected a number of vessels attempting to load crude oil and liquefied natural gas within offshore terminals without necessary documentation and approval from relevant authority like the NNPC. It is after such vessels have been arrested that an updated list with such vessels name is forwarded to the Navy to effect a list when they are duly programmed to route any of these liquids within our maritime domain. Some incidents that had occurred in the past 4 weeks to 5 weeks include the arrest of MMT VITA ARABIA which is an LNG super tanker which entered the country on the 12th of July to load the Liquified Natural Gas in Bonny without relevant documents.

We had the MT TRINITY R which was also arrested for entering without necessary approval and clearance to load LNG on the 12th of July also. The latest which is in the public space is a super tanker MT HERIOC EDEN which is a 336 metres long and 60 metres wide ship that is the size of three football fields and one third of it, and has the capacity of carrying 3 million barrels. It entered into the space in Apo field on the 7th of August but was accosted on the 8th of August while attempting to proceed to the single boil Maureen at the Apo oil field in Bonny without approval; and she refused to respond to instructions from the Nigerian Navy ship which was interrogating her and of course subsequently preventing her from the loading process which she intended to undertake.

The ship subsequently proceeded towards the Nigerian satomeo joint development zone and raised false ‘farisee’ incidence indicative of her encounter with the Nigerian Navy ship. That was NNS GONGOLA anyway. The ship was accusing the Nigerian Navy ship knowing clearly that its interaction was with a Nigerian Navy man of war. The ship eventually got arrested on the 10th of August at Equatorial Guinea through the activation of the collective arrangement of Nigeria with its neighbours which Equatorial Guinea is part of the Gulf of Guinea maritime area.
As I speak arrangements are in progress to hand her over to the Nigerian Navy to conduct an in depth investigation to unearth the actions of the vessel in order to ensure a more transparent process for crude oil and Liquified Natural Gas loading procedures as various terminals offshore within the Nigerian Navy hydrocarbon architecture.

We need to understand the differences between oil theft and oil losses. While oil theft is siphoning crude oil from vandalised pipes into barges, oil losses occur when there is known production, especially during shut-ins and force majeures as the Federal Government does not earn the desired revenue it should.

Losses also occur as a result of metering errors on the operating platforms as read. But the volume of crude oil shot-ins from non-production is often added to figures for oil theft instead of declaring them as oil losses. This should not be.