“The Presidency Vs IOC’s On Oil Theft: The Truth Is Gradually Coming Out”

Source: pointblanknews.com

By: Innih Akpan
Dear Editor, I read the online version of the very interesting and informative article titled:

“The Presidency Vs IOC’s On Oil Theft: The Truth Is Gradually Coming Out,” by Ifeanyi Izeze as published on Pointblanknews.

I think the new push to pin blames on the International Oil Companies (IOCs) is deliberate and diversionary. This is not to say that bad eggs do not exist in the fold of the IOCs but the IOCs cannot take responsibility for the action or lack of it of a disengaged (retired or dismissed) staff. Even if the IOCs were involved, the government has the means and capacity to checkmate such criminalities. The Armed Forces, Police, SSS, Customs, Immigration, and all other security Agencies are controlled by the government. If these Agencies failed to check the magnitude of oil theft we are experiencing then something is fundamentally wrong. Sincerely speaking, the inability of our entire security outfits to stem the level of oil theft is suggestive that our entire territorial integrity is far from secured.

Having previously served in the Nigerian Army, I can tell you with all sense of responsibility that the military and other security Agencies are highly complicit in the theft of our oil resources. I am not in position to say if they are serving any higher interest or cartel, but believe me that over 90% of personnel deployed to JTF compromise the trust of the entire nation.

Today, officers and soldiers lobby to be posted to the Niger Delta and their lifestyles which is hardly concealed speaks volumes. The question to ask is very obvious; why have our security personnel suddenly become partners to the scandalous crime of oil theft?

So many factors can be adduced to the disloyal acts of some security personnel. One major factor can be described as foisted on the helpless security personnel, while others are understandably for extraneous reasons. We cannot discountenance the latent effect of the 2010 amnesty for militants from the tenfold increment in oil theft. Without any doubt, a need existed to address the criminal under development of the Delta Region but the amnesty should not have been treated as an appeasement to those who picked up arms against the state.

There are evidences that appeasement or rewards for recalcitrance always throw up negative consequences.

Our amnesty programme necessary as it was lacked depth and was too hasty. It was done in our characteristic way of throwing money at problems that required deep thinking. If the militants had been subdued before the amnesty, the story will have been different. It is no hidden fact that the perpetrators of crimes against the state were not only forgiven vide the amnesty instrument but rewarded with large sums of money.

Some are even allowed to walk the corridors of power. We failed as a nation to note the unenviable reality of the impact of the amnesty programme on our security Agencies. Soldiering, in conception and execution is all about valour and pride.

It is not plausible that the military institution can ever successfully cooperate and exist side by side with an adversary who was never conquered. If “violence tends to function as a means of negotiating access” as stated by Ebenezer Obadare, then it was not properly handled by both the Nigerian State and the militants. Or else how do we explain the persistent threats by some militants to return to the creeks?

Did the militants overwhelmed the Nigerian military before amnesty was declared? The answer is capital NO. Not too many Nigerians know that throughout the face off with the militants, the Nigerian military were restricted on employing certain arms and ammunitions on the militants under the guise of a fratricidal conflict. The real truth was the fear of reactions from beyond our shores. If half the capacities (freeing all weapons) being deployed to tackle Boko Haram was ever used on the militants the story would have been different. The threats to return to the creeks will not exist either.

Herein lies the real reason why the military is playing the ostrich and in some cases collaborating with the Niger Delta militants to fleece our commonwealth. The ceding of the entire protection of offshore oil installations to Tompolo, who before now actively participated in outright criminalities and violence creates obvious doubts in the minds of security operatives (military inclusive) with attendant effect on their loyalty. That feelings of “crime pays” drives the urge to collaborate or turn a blind eye to oil theft. This is not to say that there are no military personnel who collaborate purely for extraneous reason. Talk about pride; what do you think the average soldier feels about the new status of Tomplo, a former criminal who killed their colleagues in the past? I am aware that the Nigerian Navy is having a running battle with Tompolo’s security outfit because Tompolo now equate self to the Chief of Naval Staff. Such feelings abet collaboration of oil theft.

They (security personnel) felt debased and less committed. For a fact, the ordinary soldier (all ranks) and members of other security agencies in the creeks of the Niger Delta are content with compromising their position knowing full well that similar acts by other persons were never punished. Their only means of measuring up to incessant news of stolen or misappropriate billions of naira is totally dependant on such unwholesome practices of abetting oil theft. There could not have been oil theft in the magnitude we are experiencing if the security Agencies were alive to their duties.

The stories of big time sponsors of oil theft are all rubbished. The crime is being perpetuated by regular everyday people; most of whom can be linked to the militancy of the past. The same people who sustained the unrestricted flow of weapons (all types) to the Niger Delta militants are the same people sustaining the oil theft. In the past, weapons were exchanged for crude, but the situation is different today. It is all about trading in illegal crude theft.

The operating environment is now different in the sense that the security Agencies are no longer hostile but partners. Expectedly, the Nigerian Security Agencies, as a part of the larger system needs urgent new focus if we are to arrest ongoing oil theft. The guarantee of water tight security of our natural resources resides with the Commander-in-Chief who exercises directly control over the security Agencies. The reality of the moments weighted on a dispassionate balance puts the indictment on the Commander-in-Chief; not IOCs or even the buyers!

We should bother about what the future holds when a particular government who “develops relations of patronage….” with such militant groups are no longer in power? Of course, a strong C-in-C will demand the military high echelon to stem the oil theft or be fired. That is what is needed to trigger a chain of events that perfectly suits the hierarchical nature of the military. Such order is sure to break the link or cord that binds the military personnel and other security operators with oil thieves whom I suspect are majorly the militants of yesterday.

Why do I insist that oil thieves are majorly former militants? Before the switch to illegal crude export, the main efforts of the thieves were directed at local refining of products. The Ikang village in Bakassi LGA of Cross Rivers State became the single largest outlet with which the products were distributed around the country and beyond. Overnight, miscreants and loafers in Ikang who were merely middlemen to the oil thieves in the far Delta creeks became millionaires from the illegal trade. Every night and day, wooden boats conveying products in plastic drums from the Rivers/Bayelsa creeks landed and discharged their products in Ikang. Thousands of tankers from all over Nigeria headed to Ikang to lift and distribute the cheap products until the Governor of CRS, Lyel Imoke in 2012 personally intervened. He led a team comprising all the security agencies to Ikang to destroy and set ablaze the operational centres of the oil thieves. Over 100 tankers were impounded.

Similar operations happened in other areas especially, at the source (far Delta) leading to the perpetrators re-directing their efforts to export. To find a solution to this menace one cannot discountenance other political under currents which fires oil theft. A need therefore exist to properly identify the perpetrators. It is not debatable that the development of the Niger Delta is not negotiable. For too long has the region been exploited living its inhabitants in penury.

It is now incumbent on any Nigerian government to specially attend to the Niger Delta but again, that must not be done under gun point! For example, I am from Akwa Ibom which is today the second largest oil producing state in Nigeria but I can say without equivocation that oil theft/vandalism of pipelines is not fashionable in Akwa Ibom. The crime cannot also be pin on the Ogonis (despite suffering so much from oil exploration), Isokos, Ishikiris and other oil producing communities of the Delta. It is purely facilitated and sustained by the Ijaws. Since the amnesty project came into being, a general feeling of invincibilty seems to pervade Ijaw land.

Over 90% of the beneficiaries of both local and foreign training under the amnesty scheme are Ijaws. More NDDC projects are located in Ijaw areas than others.

Besides, the NDDC and the Niger Delta Ministry is dominated by the Ijaws.

In a lighter case but factual, we are even beginning to see new literature acclaiming the Ijaws as the fourth largest ethnic grouping in Nigeria which of course is false. The Ibibios are! The new spirit appears to have emboldened the Ijaw youths to engage in all manner of criminalities including oil theft as a matter of right.

If you take cursory and passionate look at those who are spoiling for a fight with the IOCs over oil theft, you will obviously discern what I am trying to say!

The attempt to create the impression that ex Generals, top politicians, etc at the national level are complicit in the crime is not true. Though, it is possible that local ex-military or political interest could be benefiting from the crime. Again, the talk about those with capacity to bring in large vessels to lift the loot is also diversionary. Those vessels, it must be made known have always been there and were and still are behind the proliferation of arms (all types) in the Niger Delta. The criminal cartel is a local thing with a sprinkle of persons from other areas.

(Innih Akpan, Humanitarian Affairs Officer (Team Leader), UNAMID, Zalingei, East West
Darfur-Sudan: [email protected]; + (249) 909090232)

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