Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), on Tuesday, said the Nigerian Navy has failed in its constitutional role of protecting the nation’s maritime borders and bringing oil thieves to book and therefore should be restructured and unbundled.
HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement, also demanded that President Muhammadu Buhari sacks the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo for his perpetual inability to tame the multibillion-dollar oil theft business ongoing in the Niger Delta and other oil-producing places.
The group said it is shameful that having realised the Navy’s failure, the Federal Government awarded a pipeline surveillance contract to a former militant leader, Government Ekpemepulo popularly known as Tompolo.
HURIWA’s comments followed the Nigerian Navy’s recent defence of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited over “insincere and exaggerated oil theft figures”.
Recall that a representative of the Navy while appearing at the Senate Committee on the Economic and Financial Crimes, had said the NNPC deliberately continues to mislead Nigerians on the issue of crude oil theft.
But in a subsequent statement, the Navy claimed that what transpired at a recent interactive hearing before the Senate Committee on Economic and Financial Crimes was completely misconstrued by the media.
The Navy also claimed it is not indicting the NNPC and it has been working with the company to curb the menace of crude oil theft since 1 April 2022 when Operation DAKATAR DA BARAWO (OPDDB) was launched in Onne, Rivers State.
However, HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “The defence of the Nigerian Navy trying to excuse its failure regarding oil theft, illegal artisan refineries and illegal oil bunkering amongst other criminalities in the creek is embarrassing and shameful, to say the least.
“The 1999 Constitution, the Armed Forces Act CAP A20 and the National Defence Policy 2006 empowered the Nigerian Navy with the defence of the nation’s maritime borders and general security on water.
“But the Navy has failed woefully to nab oil thieves. The Navy should cover her face in shame that in a sovereign nation, her statutory role has been assigned to Tompolo’s private company which has uncovered scores of oil bunkering activities in the last three months including stadium-huge vessels used for oil theft which the Navy immediately burnt to cover tracks.
“Nigerians are not fooled. It is a known fact that there is a complicity between security agents, especially naval officers, government officials and oil thieves.
“Or how can one explain the smooth operations of oil thieves in the creeks for over a decade and the burning of one of the apprehended vessels by the Navy? The Navy must definitely know the cartel stealing Nigeria’s fortunes. The NNPC has failed and has no business in the creeks.
“The Nigerian Navy’s hierarchy needs comprehensive unbundling. Sadly, due to nepotism, President Muhammadu Buhari refused to fire the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo for the failure of leadership in identifying those in the Navy aiding and abetting crude oil thefts even when the President himself is the petroleum minister.
“Buhari should be more interested in finding and punishing these oil thieves or else in the near future, he will face justice for failing to deploy state powers to catch the crude oil thieves.”