As oil theft, piracy and other criminal activities on Nigeria’s territorial waters becomes seemingly pervasive and intractable, National President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, has called on the Federal government to seek external help in the war against criminality on the waters.
This comes as Benin Republic; Nigeria’s immediate neighbour on the West of the pirate-invested Gulf of Guinea, has engaged the services of an American private maritime security firm, AdvanFort International, to secure her coast from marauding pirates.
This is the first of such in any West African nation and the foreign security firm is to conduct counter-piracy operations for both domestic and foreign-flagged commercial vessels throughout Benin’s waters. “It is with great pleasure that I can confirm that President Dr. Thomas Boni Yayi- who is also the African Union assembly chairperson— has made our private maritime security company the first foreign enterprise to be able to fight the sea-borne marauders where they cause the most problems, ”the chief operating officer of the company, William H. Watson said in confirmation of the development.
As crude oil theft costs Nigeria an estimated $5 billion a year in potential revenue, statistics presented by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) boss showed that the corporation lost a total of 11,753,217 barrels of crude oil between 2010 and 2012.
At a price of $110 per barrel, this means that the nation lost about $1.29 billion to crude oil theft. On year by year basis, the nation lost 2,316,281 barrels of oil in 2010; 6,391,311 barrels in 2011; and 3,045,625 barrels in 2012. This is aside the lost recorded by international oil companies (IOCs)
According to Shittu, perpetrators of the vices on the nation’s waters would always try to outwit the efforts of government, saying that terrorism is a war without end. “Government is trying its best at its own level but I think we need external help to assist us to fight the war. Our capacity may not be enough, so we need external help to assist us fight terrorism”.
He told Daily Independent that there are people who have been able, not to conquer terrorism, but to reduce it. He said Nigeria needs capacity building, support, equipment and training. “Government should know what external help we need without having to submit our sovereignty. That is where politics will now come in, but when there are security challenges, you don’t think about sovereignty, you think about survival.
A London-based global financial reputation firm, Chatham House stated in a 70-page report recently that the Nigeria’s oil transactions attract many shadowy middlemen, which make them have semblance with the transactions for stolen crude. It expressed serious “doubts whether anyone capable of curbing it really has the will to do so,” because “the web of beneficiaries of oil theft makes it difficult to stop.
Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the apex maritime regulatory agency in the country has taken several steps in an attempt to address the issue of criminality on the waters. It expanded partnership with government security forces in a bid to further secure the nation’s maritime environment and stem the ugly trend of criminalities and illegalities on the nation’s waters.
The agency and the Nigerian Air force recently endorsed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to promote safety and security in the Nigerian maritime domain. In line with the operations agreement, NIMASA and the Nigerian Air force are to collaborate in the broad areas of Intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, search and rescue operations, tactical airlifting and enforcement actions against piracy, smuggling, illegal bunkering and illegal fishing as well as other sea based crimes. The agency already signed an MOU with the Nigerian Navy, which have been providing armed personnel support to NIMASA in its implementation of maritime safety and security mandate enshrined in the NIMASA Act 2007. This MOU gave birth to the Maritime Guard Command, domiciled in NIMASA.
Aside the MOU, NIMASA also entered into a partnership with Global West Vessel Specialist Limited (GWVSL) for the provision of platforms (patrol boats) and other software and hardware to enable NIMASA focus on its core mandate. The contract, worth $103 million (N16 Billion), was formally approved by the Federal executive council (FEC) on February 3 2012
The maritime administration cited several factors, including lack of funds, bureaucracy and the lack of business culture in the public service as responsible for its inability to tackle maritime security over the years. It noted that it was best to engage the private sector, considering the vastness of Nigeria’s coast with its attendant benefits often stolen and the emergency needed in terms of safety, pollution etc.
Despite these, the Nigerian Navy and the Joint Task Force (JTF) are also engaged in separate fights against oil theft and other criminalities on the waters, including destruction of illegal refineries even though the government has failed to improve its capacity to locally refine crude. This lack of capacity is mainly blamed for creating the incentives for virtually all the forms of criminalities now threatening the nation’s economic stability.
Besides, all these efforts, mostly uncoordinated and often resulting in inter agency rivalry has not yielded satisfactory success in the fight against criminalities, which seemingly increases amid the war against it, heightening fears of some very powerful conspiracies. This is apparently why Shittu wants government to seek an external help.
Information from Daily Independent was used in this report.