Recently on the 24th of January, 2016, the men of the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder under the command of Commodore Sanusi Ibrahim uncovered an illegal bunkering operation happening right within the government owned Ship Builders Yard located in the Port Harcourt Port Complex. This operation which concluded in the arrest of five suspects is only the latest in a long line of NNS Pathfinder efforts at busting, smashing and literally blowing up illegal refineries, jetties, tank farms and the like in and around the Niger Delta area in Rivers state.
How it all began
9th October, 2013
Speaking in Yenagoa, the Flag Officer Commanding, Rear-Adm. Sidi-Ali Usman declared that the command had declared war on all criminal elements operating in and around the Niger-Delta region. He intimated that the Navy was in cooperation with the host communities and stated that strategies were already in place.
11th October, 2013
Just two days later, this was the first major coup for the men of the NNS Pathfinder as they hauled in an impound of over 1300 tonnes of crude oil which was suspected to have been stolen from Bonny island in Rivers state. According to the Commanding Officer of the Forward Operating Base, Capt. Daupreye Matthew, the operation was in line with the vision and mission of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Adm. Dele Ezeoba on zero-tolerance for oil theft in the region.
The strategies had already started working.
Fast-forward a bit into 2015. By this time, the men of the NNS Pathfinder has been responsible for the busting-up of over a hundred illegal refineries with a total of 78 illegal refineries destroyed within two months (between June 2015 and August 2015) according to a report in Vanguard Nigeria. The men of the NNS Pathfinder had made a solemn vow – one that Nigerians were of course used to hearing, only this time it was different. The vow was simple: to wipe out and put permanently out of the game all those who would illicitly pirate oil and its products, and it seemed they were doing just that. According to the Commander at that time, Commander Shuwa Abdulrahim Mohammed, “The heat is already on…no compromise”.
“Crude oil theft has been reduced from about 1.2 million barrels per day to about 250,000 barrels a day”
Following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Vice-Adm. Dele Ezeoba, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Adm. Ibok-Ette Ibas ordered a continuation of the mop-up exercise to ensure that no structure was left standing for the oil pirates. The Navy may not be able to reach everywhere he insisted saying that they did not have all the necessary equipment yet, but however he maintained that the strategies were focused on increasing the number of choke points to ensure that there the stolen crude could not be taken out of the country into the open sea.
Zero-tolerance within the Navy
While curtailing attempts of oil thieves to sell their illicit products may be daunting, it is clear that efforts will be undermined if elements within the naval staff are found to assist these criminals. When inspecting the NNS Pathfinder, the CNS, Vice-Adm. Ibok-Ette Ibas warned the men to be committed to the efforts against oil theft, stating that anyone who was found aiding and abetting any criminals would be decisively dealt with. Whatever it was he said in his speech, it seemed to have the desired effect on the men of the NNS Pathfinder.
In October, 2015, under the command of Commodore Shuwa Mohammed, while busting up an illicit refinery with 15 metallic tanks containing 145,000 litres of stolen crude in Buguma, Asari-Toru LGA of Rivers state, the naval officers were offered the sum of N600,000 on the spot to look the other way. The opportunistic oil thieves couldn’t have guessed the depth of the training and mettle of the NNS Pathfinder men, at least until they were unceremoniously carted away to jail with an extra charge on their sheet.
High Expectations for the NNS Pathfinder
With increased vandalisation of oil refineries despite efforts at safeguarding them – leading recently to the shutdown of the Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries by the NNPC, it is clear that the oil thieves have declared war on the Nigerian economy. With the track record already exhibited by the men of the NNS Pathfinder as well as other loyal and capable men of the Nigerian Navy, all eyes are on the Navy to quickly put an end to this scourge.
Communities and individuals are expected to cooperate at every opportunity with the men of the Nigerian Navy to ensure that they carry out their duties efficiently. Oil thieves and pirates often set up shop in the most innocuous places and the navy relies on tip offs to find them and destroy their operations.
Like the old Ghostbusters theme song:
If there’s something weird, someone bunkering fuel, who you gonna call? NNS Pathfinder!
Do you think the NNS Pathfinder is not doing enough? Do you think they can do better or are you satisfied with their performance so far, share your thoughts in the comments below
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