BY KINGSLEY OMONOBI-ABUJA
Indications have emerged that President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered Service Chiefs and the Inspector General of Police to put a stop to illegal oil bunkering, pipeline vandalization and other maritime incidents that have drastically affected the nation’s revenue base.
Failure to tackle the challenges before the third quarter of the year, according to Presidency sources, will leave Mr. President with no option than to sanction the Service Chiefs who are entrusted with the security and protection of the nation’s vast onshore and offshore oil platforms that account for 90% of the nation’s revenue.
Sunday Vanguard was told that a visible disturbed Jonathan, was worried about the shortfall in revenue acruable to the country primarily because of the activities of illegal oil bunkerers, pipeline vandals and other criminal elements in the oil sector. He summoned the Service Chiefs to Aso Villa and told them pointblank that the situation must not be allowed to continue.
The president was said to have threatened that he would not approve the outcome of promotion boards of the personnel from the services usually presented by the Army, Navy and Airforce towards the end of the year should the situation that affects the economy continue. The boards sit by the third quarter of the year, after which the three service councils headed by the President approve the promotions.
Consequent upon the president’s riot act, it was gathered that the Chief of the Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika, has directed the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 82 Division, Enugu; GOC, 2 Division, Ibadan; as well as the GOC, 81 Division, Lagos, whose divisions oversee some oil producing and distribution states, to fashion out strategies aimed at immediately bringing the oil theft menace to a halt.
The various Joint Task Forces, including ‘Operation Restore Hope’, ‘Operation Pulo Shield’ and ‘Operation Flush Out 1, 11, and 111 with significant number of officers and men of the Amphibious Brigades and Battalions, have also been charged to rise up to the challenge of crude oil theft by the Defence Headquarters.
On the part of the Navy, Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba, at the weekend, summoned a meeting of the top brass of the Service to Abuja and read the riot act to them to put a stop to oil theft or be ready to be shipped out of the force.
At the meeting, Ezeoba told Principal Staff Officers (PSOs), Flag Officers Commanding (FOCs) and Commanders of Naval Bases, Forward Operation Bases and other Operational Commands, that the mandate given the Navy by Jonathan to tackle oil theft must be met.
” The President clearly instructed the Nigerian Navy to, as a matter of urgency and priority, eradicate the hydra-headed scourge of crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism and other acts of illegalities in our waters”, he said.
” Further to this directive, I have, in the past five months, instructed far reaching measures that will help address the challenges in our waters. Firstly, what we did was carry out ‘Operation Farauta’, which we think was successful, that enabled us to clearly establish the state of the fleets as regards operational capability for sustained patrol at sea.
” Thereafter, we went ahead to commission five new Patrol Boats that was bought for us by the federal government in support of this all important national assignment. We have as I speak, deployed 3 of these boats to the Central Naval Command based in Brass”.
” It is therefore in furtherance of that mandate, that I have called you, my PSO’s, and Commanders in the field to sign a ‘Performance Contract’ which itself, emanated from the retreat held in Uyo recently, as a bench mark for scientific measurement, for an optimal actualization of key performance indicators at operational and tactical level of the operations by commands, units, establishments and branch chiefs at Naval headquarters”.
The CNS continued “I understand that there is need for us to empower the various commands and operational Bases, to do the needful to ensure that they optimize their efforts. In that regard, we have gone ahead to provide necessary logistics to support their operations and that will be a continuous issue. We will continue to provide the tools that they need to ensure that they continue to live up to expectation”.
“However, I must make it clear to everybody seated here today, that for whatever it is worth, you have a responsibility to deliver on Mr. President’s mandate and therefore, the Navy as a matter of policy, has established zero tolerance for in-attitude and complicity and it is obvious from available records and intelligence summaries that officers and ratings have in the past and perhaps in the present been in complicity in the discharge of their duties”, he said.
“I have said this before and I am saying it again for the very last time. Let me make it clear, that anybody found to have engaged in the act of complicity in the discharge of his duty particularly with regards to the mandate we have at hand today, will be sanctioned and dealt with according to the laws”.
“The saying goes that a word is enough for the wise. It is either you are ready to do this job in consonance with laid down rules and regulations or you quietly ship out. The embarrassment to the government and the armed forces of this country by actions or inaction’s of a few will not be tolerated anymore”.
“It is a clarion call for all of us to live up to our responsibilities, like I have said in the past and I will say it again, ‘that all sins in the past are forgiven. Now go home and sin no more. This is the charge I give to you today, that we must fight this menace in collaboration with other services and agencies of government that have been tasked with this responsibility”, the CNS added.
For the police, IGP Mohammed Abubakar promptly directed the establishment a new Command called the Maritime Police Command. The pioneer head of the new establishment is AIG Mark A. Idakwo.
The Maritime Command will be domiciled at Force Headquarters, Abuja, under the operational control of ‘B’ Department. The Command, which has the status of a Zone, is a fusion of the Marine Police department, the Police Ports Authority Command and the Inland Waterways Formation.
The Maritime Police Command is further broken into Western Maritime Command with headquarters in Lagos, the Eastern Maritime Command with headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and the Marine Command with headquarters also situated in Lagos.
“Each of these subsidiary Commands under the Maritime Police Command is headed by a Commissioner of Police”, a police statement said.
“The Maritime Command is charged with the responsibility of maintaining law and order and providing adequate security in our ports and harbours as well as tackling contemporary security challenges such as armed robbery, piracy, kidnapping, gun running and other related crimes in our creeks, harbours and territorial waterways”.
On the part of the Nigerian Airforce, the Air Officers Commanding, Mobility Command and Tactical Air Command, were directed to fashion out new strategies in consonance with such operational bases like the Special Operations Group, the Maritime Airlift Surveillance Group and others to intensify air patrols to make for greater efforts at arresting oil theft culprits.