Piracy, crude oil theft and other illegal operations in Nigeria‚Äôs maritime environment are a major source of revenue leakage and the Nigerian Navy (NN) has put measures in place to ensure this sector of the national economy is properly protected.
In the first seven months of this year it has seized 25 vessels suspected of involvement in crude oil theft and bunkering.
That the Nigerian military has to provide protection to more than 5 700 oil wells, 9 717 km of pipeline, 112 flow stations, 16 gas plants and 126 floating platforms in the country‚Äôs maritime environment underscores the need for adequate maritime security a statement said.
The Nigerian maritime arm of service is employing a three-pronged approach based on the first NN Strategic Guidance (SG-01) policy issued last October. It defines deliverables including the elimination of piracy, sea robbery and crude oil theft.
Surveillance is the first priority, which has seen NN regional maritime awareness facilities installed along the Nigerian coastline to ensure adequate electronic surveillance of the nation‚Äôs coastal areas.
A response initiative involving deployments of boats and/or vessels to interrogate/arrest suspicious vessels picked up by electronic surveillance is the second step in the SG-01 policy.
‚ÄúTo improve response capability, naval presence and deterrence, the NN carried out force restructuring which included the creation of an additional operational Command, new forward operating bases (FOBs), outposts, coastal observation posts and flying units among others for increased reach to counter crude oil theft and piracy,‚Äù the statement continues.
‚ÄúEqually, the NN asset recapitalisation drive has resulted in acquisition of seaward defence boats and other mixes of platforms, helicopters and support facilities to enforce its statutory responsibilities. Two new offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) are under construction in China to boost the fleet. It should be noted that for capacity building one of the OPVs will be built in China and the other will be completed in Nigeria. For maintenance and ensuring availability of platforms, the upgrading of ship support and repair facilities is also being carried out by the NN. All these have greatly enhanced NN response initiative capabilities.‚Äù
The third SG-01 step sees suspects handed to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, the country‚Äôs Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Nigeria Police for prosecution.
The need for and result of improved maritime surveillance and response is illustrated by the fact that 968 crude oil tankers successfully lifted more than 82 million metric tons of crude oil on behalf of the Nigerian federal government between January and September this year without a single successful attack by sea robbers or pirates.