INFORMED stakeholders of the Niger Delta have said tackling the menace of oil theft in the zone requires a lot more than haphazard, incoherent military action and issuing directives that will not be followed.
The stakeholders said this in reaction to President Bola Tinubu, who, last week, in Abuja, directed Service Chiefs, heads of security, and intelligence agencies to “crush” oil thieves.
The stakeholders implored Tinubu to take his time, study, evaluate and uncover the real issues before dishing out orders.
They said it was not the first time a Nigerian President would be giving such a directive, but the worry is how he expects service chiefs to stop oil thieves when top military officers are among the oil cabal sponsoring illegal oil refining and crude oil theft.
First, the stakeholders said President Tinubu should know that if he truly wants to confront oil theft, he must decide to step on powerful toes.
If Mr. President’s answer is confirmatory, they advised him to identify, expose, and penalize top military officers, including Army, Police, Airforce, DSS, Navy, etc (both serving and retired); Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPCL; International Oil Companies, IOCs; and politicians involved in crude oil theft.
After exposing and punishing the rotten eggs, the President should rejig the security architecture, the stakeholders added.
They also hinted that some highly placed government officials from the Villa where Tinubu governs from colluded with the oil cabal in the past governments.
They said oil thieves use technology to steal crude oil; therefore, the country must apply technology to prevent oil theft, not repairing pipelines after they had breached.
Military chiefs part of the organized crime–James, INC 2nd vice president
The second (2nd) National Vice President, Ijaw National Congress, INC, Chief Nengi James, who is familiar with the issues at stake, told Saturday Vanguard: “I will continue to mention it, this crude oil theft is an organized crime by the military, and some political bigwigs.
“In fact, this crime is even more dangerous than the petroleum subsidy. Ships and vessels loaded with crude oil freely go out of the nation’s territory to neighboring countries where they refine it and bring it back to us.
“They are using these local refineries to cover up, the volume of crude used by the local refineries cannot be compared to the ones loaded in vessels and siphoned. The community people are not involved in this organized crime, they are only involved in the surveillance job.
“The major players in this crime are those, who own the vessels, and military chiefs in the Ministry of Defence, Navy, and Army.
“All these coded Operation Pulo Shield, Operation Delta Safe, Joint Task Force, JTF, are just to deceive the people that they are working. Why have they not left the Niger Delta, it is big, enormous organized crime?”
Nengi, who is the national coordinator of the Association of Rural Chiefs for Peace and Development, asserted: “If they really want to change the situation, it is not even the surveillance that they are talking about. Let us not deceive ourselves in this matter, the criminality is top to bottom, they should stop pointing accusing fingers at the community. “
“Why are military officers in the creeks and Niger Delta richer than their own formation? Some have estates and properties. Have you asked yourself why the military has more interest in staying in the Niger Delta than fighting terrorists?
“Anywhere bunkering activity is going on, you will see several patrol vehicles, and checkpoints where they collect bribes. They are even those who are on illegal patrol. They will charter a taxi and be chasing those carrying bunkering products. However, these are the local ones.
“The greatest theft and criminality are in the high seas. That is why the oil companies are divesting and going offshore where they can load freely without monitoring. The security people there only share money; they are not monitoring or securing anything.
“The government should investigate and probe all the military personnel in the Niger Delta. They should explain how they came about the properties they gain every day.
“How can a junior officer be sharing money with his commander? Because there is no discipline, and everybody is sharing the booty. They share money and live above their income from the sea to the Defense Headquarters.
“This military personnel should be monitored, something like policing the security personnel, and you will see properties that will be recovered.”