The Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Emmanuel Ogalla, said the Nigerian Navy had so far apprehended 23 vessels and destroyed 703 illegal refineries in its operations
Ogalla disclosed this during a meeting with Principal Staff Officers, Flag Officers Commanding and Base Commanders, on Friday in Abuja
He also said that the service had arrested 232 suspected oil thieves till date
He said the navy also apprehended five barges, 690 Cotonou boats laden with stolen crude, 116 speed boats as well as 82 vehicles and trucks.
“I am delighted to report that between January and December 2023, the Nigerian Navy destroyed 703 illegal refining sites and arrested five barges, 690 Cotonou boats laden with stolen crude, 116 speed boats as well as 232 suspects engaged in Crude Oil Theft (COT).
“During the period, 82 vehicles/trucks and 23 vessels were also arrested,” he said.
Ogalla said the Nigerian Navy seized 803,353.20 barrels of crude worth more than N1.5 billion from economic saboteurs.
He added that the navy under his watch, had maintained zero tolerance for oil thieves and vowed to deal with any officer or rating found colluding with criminal elements.
“Let me at this juncture caution that under my watch there is zero tolerance for Crude Oil Theft.
“Any officer or rating that is found to be involved in this unwholesome act will be punished to the full extent of the law.”
The naval chief highlighted some of the vessels arrested to include: MT MARINE EXPRESS, MT CECILIA, MT UFUOMA, MT VIGOR I, MV BARGE AYEBA ENENI, FT LAMU I and MT VINNALARIS I LAGOS
According to him, arising from these, 46.3 million litres of AGO, 2.4 million litres of DPK and 438,886 litres of PMS were recovered as well as 803,353.20 bbls of crude oil.
He said the seizures could translate to about N105 billion at current market values.
Ogalla said the arrests and seizures were not just isolated successes but achievements recorded due to deliberate strategic policy formulation, operational implementation and tactical execution.
He, however, cautioned personnel not to be lulled into complacency, adding that the criminals being combatted were adaptable and ruthless and would always change tactics, seek new routes and employ new technologies.
“It is our duty to stay ahead of the curve, to anticipate their moves, and to counter them with greater resolve.
“I therefore, charge commanders to, with a renewed vigour, utilise all available resources to anticipate criminal activities and disrupt their operations before they can even begin.
“Saturate the waters with credible presence. Let every illegal vessel know that they will be hunted down, intercepted, and brought to justice,” he said.
The Naval chief, however, tasked commanders to foster seamless collaboration with sister services, relevant government agencies and duly recognised private surveillance companies, to ensure a unified front against crude oil theft.
He assured that the navy remained committed to sustaining and collaborating with all stakeholders in the fight against COT and other forms of maritime crimes.
Ogalla said that President Bola Tinubu had readily provided the resources and moral support needed by the navy to prevail.
He said that efforts were being made to equip them with the tools to dominate the maritime domain such as faster boats, advanced surveillance technology and robust intelligence networks.
According to him, the navy needs the unwavering commitment, strategic brilliance and steadfast courage of all personal, urging them to be accountable for the resources entrusted to them.
“Your ability to efficiently utilise the resources at your disposal to achieve best results will single you out as a commander worthy of trust and emulation.
“Each of you hold within you the power to turn the tide. Let history remember that this era as the time when the navy, under your command, turned the tide against crude oil theft and other forms of maritime crimes, thereby securing a brighter future for our nation.”