The Nigerian Navy has denied reports that its personnel aid and abate illegal bunkering, crude oil theft and operation of illegal refineries.
A statement by the Navy director of information, Com. Suleiman Dahun, said the Nigerian Navy has zero tolerance for economic sabotage, describing the report as ‘largely’ speculative and lacking in facts.
“The attention of the Nigerian Navy has been drawn to a news report in some newspapers captioned ‘How Nigerian Navy aids crude oil theft, herders’ invasion.
“While the report is largely speculative, lacking in facts and substance and one-sided, the Nigerian Navy notes the attempt to substantiate and legitimise the allegations contained therein by quoting an unnamed official of an organisation called Domestic Refineries Owners Association of Nigeria, who made grave allegations of complicity against the Nigerian Navy personnel.
“Thus, as a responsible service, the Nigerian Navy intends to invite members of the purported organisation to assist in identifying the NN personnel who receive bribes to facilitate the alleged unpatriotic acts of economic sabotage.
“In this respect, the Naval headquarters wishes to further reiterate its position on zero tolerance for economic sabotage, isolated cases of personnel complicity in illegal acts as well as its resolve to fight all forms of criminal activities in the nation’s maritime domain
“Accordingly, the Nigerian Navy encourages anyone with useful information regarding criminals operating in the Nigeria’s maritime environment or those aiding and abetting them, to please oblige the service such information. The information so received and the informants are assured of utmost confidentiality in handling.”
The Navy was reacting to an earlier allegation that its personnel are complicit in rising crude oil theft and illegal refineries in the Niger Delta creeks.
They alleged that some naval officers who know the locations of illegal refineries usually receive gratifications not to close down crude oil theft rings and maintain an overview of the illegal operations.
There have been reports of personnel protecting ‘tapping points,’ where the perpetrators retrieve crude oil from illegally installed taps on oil pipelines, bush refineries and of personnel soliciting bribes in return for unrestricted passage.
They also alleged that the operators of illegal refineries pay huge amounts of money to the Navy personnel to allow them operate freely.
“They only destroy the refining sites when they have misunderstanding about payments or when a new officer assumes office and wants to impress his superiors, but after a while he joins the business,” the sources said.
Supporting the claims, Domestic Refineries Owners Association of Nigeria, a body of private refineries operators alleged that they pay Navy Personnel on weekly or monthly basis depending on their agreement.
A member of the association, who pleaded anonymity for security reasons, had disclosed that some of the officers, who they work with, also have their own refining sites, which are operated on their behalf.
“Before now, we use to have cordial relationship with the Navy and other security agencies, they urge us to embark on illegal refineries and we paying them at the end of production. Sometimes we pay them weekly and at other times, we pay them daily.
“But having reviewed the situation, we discovered that we are losing because after agreeing with them, their superiors give orders and they dismantle the refineries and after one week they come to us to say we should carry on with our business,” he stated.
Immediate past Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Ibot Ekwe-Ibas, had also described them as the ‘bad eggs’ in the service, saying their activities had continued to undermine efforts to prosecute infractions.
Ibas, who stated this during his handover to the new Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, warned the personnel that engage in unethical and unprofessional conducts to change for the better.