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How Navy personnel, others aid crude oil theft, illegal refineries in N’Delta

Rising crude oil theft and illegal refineries in the Niger Delta creeks have been attributed to alleged complicity of Nigerian Navy personnel and criminals bent on sabotaging the nation’s economy.

The Guardian learnt 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.

It was also learnt that military personnel’s involvement in oil theft had remained a major challenge, as naval officers either turn a blind eye or actively profit from the illegal oil trade.

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.

Sources informed that security operatives might not be able to end crude oil theft and illegal bunkering, which they said, “remains a huge business in the Niger Delta creeks, as those who are supposed to fight the crime are the ones aiding and abetting it.”

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, confirmed 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, 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, 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.

On his part, Gambo has vowed to find and punish Navy personnel who collude with drug traffickers, kidnapers, armed robbers and other criminal elements to sabotage the nation’s economy and undermine national security.

Gambo, who unveiled his mission statement at his first meeting with Principal Staff Officers, Flag Officers Commanding and Commanders of Autonomous Units of the Nigerian Navy at Naval Headquarters, Abuja, pledged to straighten established policies and measures to sanction identified saboteurs in the service.