THREAT TO THE SECURITY OF NIGERIAN INLAND WATERWAYS
The security threats in the Nigerian inland waterways are traditional and sundry crimes. This will be discussed subsequently.
Criminals within the AOR have taken kidnapping as a lucrative trade and as an avenue to make money or otherwise blackmail oil companies, well to do individuals or politicians. For example, On 23 February 2014, Chief Nengite an uncle to the C-in-C was kidnapped by gunmen at Otuoke who demanded a ransom of 500 million Naira. Our operatives in conjunction with DSS and police tracked the kidnappers and secured the release of Chief Nengite on 12 March 2014. Similarly, Madam Patience Agbami a nephew to Mr. President’s wife was reportedly kidnapped on 12 March 2014, but our prompt intervention led to her immediate rescue. Recently, the mother of Senator Pauker, Madam Florentina on 30 July 2014 was kidnapped and the JTF in collaboration with other security agencies secured her release. The spate of kidnapping remains a threat particularly in the waterways of the region which the kidnappers have considered a difficult terrain to be tracked easily by security agencies.
The criminality that perverses the operational area is perpetrated by restive youths who form cult groups and acquire weapons to terrorize the locals. The cultists have identified the inaccessible creeks to be a safe haven to perpetrate atrocities. JTF has handled several cases of cultists activities in IBAA, AKPABI and OMOKU communities in Rivers State and other communities in Delta State. The intervention of JTF troops led to the arrests of some and stem the tide.
Sea robbers have contributed in heating up the security landscape of the JOA. Their activities also engage and stretch the Task Force’s manpower resource. For instance on 12 March 2014, sea robbers attacked 2 Agip tugboats, MV EBIZAR and MV SOMKE, JTF troops however, rescued the situation. Several other incidences involving sea robbery occur intermittently within the creeks and waterways in the Niger Delta Region. These are more prevalent during market days thus, affecting the economic life of many riverine communities. The Task Force is striving to ensure a conducive environment for all law abiding citizens to go about their normal ventures.
Smuggling of goods including refined petroleum products, crude oil, textile material, food products, wines, spirits and cigarettes is common within Nigeria’s borders. This has taken a new dimension since humans are also smuggled through the inland waterways across sea borders to work in farms in neighboring countries. These acts have severe consequences on the national economy. The major effect is denial of the country’s much needed revenue from custom and excise. It also affects local industries negatively. It is estimated that Nigeria loses as much as 4 billion Naira annually due to smuggling.
Ethnic or political conflict precipitated by the travails of democracy and the controversies arising from power sharing mechanism and revenue allocation formula, could constitute a threat within the nation’s waterways. This has manifested in form of youth restiveness, violent communal agitation and ethno-centric conflicts in the Niger Delta Area, leading to forced closure of oil platforms.
ILLEGAL BUNKERING AND CRUDE OIL THEFT
Illegal bunkering of crude oil and refined products constitute another problem in the major inland waterways. These practices of denying the nation of the much-needed revenue from refined petroleum products, and crude oil by way of taxes and foreign exchange. Between 2001 and 2002 SPDC lost an average of 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day. This translates into billions of naira in revenue lost by the government. Part of the negative economic impact of illegal oil bunkering, is environmental degradation and pollution which affects the people adversely. The JTF Op PULO SHIELD has worked assiduously to turn this trend around. Recently, the oil companies have reported an increase in their production due to the fight waged by JTF against the oil thieves. Though the perpetrators are tenacious indulging in the illicit trade the JTF is living up to task. Recently, the JTF arrested one Mr. Jarret and 2 Britons who are notorious in bunkering in the Niger Delta and were subsequently handed over for prosecution. The Joint Task Force has equally arrested 22 vessels, destroyed over 1,200 illegally refined products from March 2014 to date. This has brought about a remarkable improvement in oil production in the last quarter as shown on the chart.
PIPELINES VANDALISM AND SABOTAGE
The increase in public awareness of the monetary value of oil and gas products in Nigeria has equally raised the level of threats that oil facilities face in the waterways. Oil thieves have become more daring as they vandalise pipelines to siphon crude for illegal refining. The remote locations of most of the facilities render them vulnerable to vandalism and other forms of sabotage. Atimes, the vandalism of pipelines and flow stations is done deliberately to cause spillage so as to compel oil companies to pay. In 2009, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) recorded 497 cases of pipelines vandalism. Also, in 2010 SPDC recorded 349 cases of flow stations and pipelines destruction, which made the company to defer the production of 134 million barrels of crude oil. These figures have drastically reduced due to the intolerance of the JTF Op PULO SHIELD to oil theft in the region. The JTF is therefore advocating the establishment of modular refineries to engage the teeming youths and locals involved in the illicit trade of illegal refining of crude.
ENGAGEMENT OF EX-MILITANTS OF QUESTIONABLE CHARACTER
One of the most glaring threat to the security of the Niger Delta waterways is the engagement of persons with questionable character as surveillance contractors by the oil companies. Cases abound where ex-militants employed as surveillance contractors turned oil thieves particularly when the contract is terminated, resort to sabotage of the company’s installations. A case at hand is the explosion at the Trans-national trunk line belonging to AGIP Company at Igbematoru. This was reportedly caused by a disgruntled ex-militant whose contract job was unceremoniously terminated.
Drug trafficking through the nation’s waterways is another activity that may pose a threat to the Nigerian economy. This is because proceeds from drug trade are usually laundered in various ways. Earnings from drug trade help to fuel inflation and aid terrorism. Sanctions that could be imposed on Nigeria as a result of being labeled a decertified nation by the US Drug Law Agency could have negative impacts on the nation’s economy. A collaborative effort with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) which primary responsible it is to check illegal drug use will stem the tide.
UNDERDEVELOPMENT AND POVERTY IN THE NIGER DELTA AREA
A major factor that is responsible for increased piracy and illegal activities on Nigerian waters can be traced to underdevelopment and poverty in the Niger Delta area. The failure of successive regimes to timely address underdevelopment, poverty and environmental degradation in the Niger Delta enabled the emergence of several ethnic militant groups as self help mechanisms and for environmental and political purposes. These groups easily recruit youths due to massive unemployment and the poor social economic situation in Nigeria. It is believed that the current efforts being made by government to develop the area will address the threat.
Delivered By Major General E.J. Atewe
Commander, Joint Task Force
during the 2014 National Association of Energy Correspondents (NAEC) Conference, at Eko Hotel, Lagos.
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