26th November, 2014
The menace of oil theft and sea piracy in the nation’s maritime sector is becoming worrisome, with the feeble attempt to curb the vices no helping matters.
Despite the massive investment in surveillance facilities and other state-of-the-art equipment, it is estimated that the country loses about $25 billion to oil theft, sea piracy and poaching annually- $800 million to poaching, $9 billion to pirate attacks and $15.5 billion to oil theft.
Early this year, the Nigerian Navy announced it has installed N2 billion worth of hi-tech equipment to monitor movement of vessels within the nation’s maritime space. This include investment in camera-equipped surveillance towers installed in the water off its coast.
Similarly, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, began a satellite surveillance operation with the establishment of its 24-hour Satellite Surveillance Centre in Lagos to provide a safety net for corporate bodies and individuals who transact businesses within the Nigerian waters. The surveillance satellite system is to help capture the presence of any vessel in Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which extends about 200 nautical miles seawards from the coasts of Nigeria. The satellite system was deployed to curb criminal activities undermining the nation’s economy, such as oil theft, illegal oil refineries and illegal bunkering.
Despite the reported success stories like the rescue of a Ghanaian vessel which was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Ghana a few months ago, much is still expected from the agency, Nigerian Navy and other related agencies to stem pirate attacks and other environmental vices in the Nigerian waters.
Nigeria’s coastline is still notorious for criminal activities, illegal bunkering, attacks by militants and black market operations. Improving security in the Nigeria maritime domain involves the collaboration of all the concerned security and other regulatory agencies. Though there is collaboration between NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy, it is necessary to increase the presence and capacity of the coast guards and the Navy.
It is also pertinent to further checkmate the criminal activities of land-based groups especially in the Niger-Delta region, illegal oil bunkering and corruption among some government officials. Oil theft thrives as a result of the connivance of highly placed personalities. So much noise has been made in this respect while the high-profile individuals are yet to be exposed and punished to serve as deterrent to others.
It is unbelievable that massive oil theft is going on at a time the protection of the oil pipelines has been handed over to former Niger Delta warlords at a huge cost. Couldn’t the Navy have been better equipped to do the job? Now that Nigeria’s economy has nose-dived, the Federal Government has to pay serious attention to protecting the oil industry from the leeches that are feeding fat from it at the expense of the larger population.