Direct Service Chiefs To Expose, Punish Oil Thieves In Military — N-Delta Stakeholders Tell Tinubu

By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South, Sam Oyadongha (Yenagoa), Egufe Yafugborhi (Port Harcourt), Akpokona Omafuaire (Ughelli), Ike Uche (Calabar) Chioma Onuegbu (Uyo)

A Niger Delta monarch, leaders, and stakeholders have asked the nation’s security agencies to carry out internal cleansing, and fish out officers and men involved in crude oil banditry, rather than challenging a citizen that spoke the bitter truth to name the complicit security officials.

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They asked President Bola Tinubu, who, recently, sacked all the service chiefs, and appointed new ones to give the fresh helmsmen clear-cut directives to expose and punish all military personnel engaged in crude oil theft.

Responding to the Nigerian Navy’s demand through its Spokesperson, Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vauguhan, that the leader of the Niger-Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, NDPVF, Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, should name the military officers involved in oil bunkering, the stakeholders advised the security agencies not take the patience of Niger Delta people for granted.

Dokubo-Asari, during a visit to President Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, last week, disclosed that military officers were involved in crude oil bunkering in the oil region.

Akin to his Navy counterpart, the Nigerian Army Spokesperson, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, also debunked the claim of military participation in oil bunkering, saying the army had intensified its battle against the oil thieves.
However, stakeholders, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, during the week, insisted Dokubo-Asari should not mention any name publicly, and that security officials’ participation in oil bunkering was common knowledge in the creeks.

They said that he (Dokubo-Asari) was not the first to speak out, as an ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, whose Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, TSSNL, is one of the private surveillance contractors currently monitoring the nation’s oil pipelines, and others, made a similar disclosure in the past.

Don’t take N-Delta people for granted – HRM Whiskey

The Ovie of Idjerhe Kingdom in Delta State, HRM King Obukohwo Monday Whiskey, Udurhie 1, who noted that the military was trying to save face, said: “First, the Federal Government must be very discrete in its investigation to know who the crude oil thieves are, as the statement by Dokubo-Asari is not only a fact, but also the bitter truth.”

“There is a cartel that involves security personnel, oil companies’ executives and top government officials. Do not forget, that the oil they are bunkering is not in drums.

“This oil is being stolen in high-capacity barges and in most cases, ships. These are not businesses of peasant people; people who do not have international connections, and poor people. If you must steal oil, you must have a ship. Which Niger Delta person has a ship?

“Therefore, telling Dokubo-Asari to come and name names is just face-saving. They are trying to save their face. They should not take the patience of the Niger Delta people for granted.

“They are well-known in the Niger Delta for their illicit activities. Go around the seas in the Niger Delta, sometimes, you pass a military houseboat, less than a pole from there, there is an ongoing operation. Are you now saying they are not aware of what is happening there? Can villagers go there to challenge those people, and survive it?

“This country belongs to all of us and if we want to rescue this country from the hands of few corrupt individuals, we must be ready to call a spade a spade.

Leave Dokubo-Asari; do your work- Essien, ex-minister

A former Minister of Lands, Housing, and Urban Development, Chief Nduese Essien, told our correspondent: “My answer is that Dokubo-Asari cannot be asked to name the people. That could be a simplistic approach to the problem.”

“The military protects oil facilities; several people have said in the past that the people supposed to protect oil are stealing it. If the military hears that, they should investigate it and bring out the culprits.

“Therefore, let them take the investigation more seriously. They should do their work, and not expect any individual or organisation to tell them those responsible for oil theft in the country.

“They are the government apparatus directed to protect the oil from being stolen, so they should monitor those they have deployed, make sure they work, and get the culprits.

“It is because they were not doing their work that the Federal Government had to appoint Tompolo to do the work at a very heavy cost. Therefore, their incapability led to incurring additional costs to do their work.

Tompolo, Dokubo-Asari have said enough —Omare, ex-IYC president

Former President, Ijaw Youth Congress, IYC, Barr Eric Omare, said, “My view is that neither Dokubo-Asari nor Tompolo needs to say more than what they have already said by going further to mention names of military officers involved in oil bunkering.

“The Nigerian government knows those military officers they sent to the Niger Delta to protect oil facilities and they are the ones involved in oil bunkering.

“If the federal government is serious about tackling oil bunkering, Tompolo, Dokubo-Asari and other leaders of the Niger Delta region have already said enough to warrant the government identifying the culprits.

“Therefore, what is required is the political will to handle the menace of oil bunkering in the Niger Delta. The problem is not the absence of laws, but absence of political will by the highest level of political leadership.
“Those involved in the oil bunkering are known to the federal government and the new government under President Tinubu should summon the courage, and political will to tackle the menace.”

Military know the truth —Prof Awhefeada

An intellectual, Prof. Sunny Awhefeada said, “The military high command is merely kicking to save face. Dokubo-Asari is not saying anything new, and the military know he is not lying. However, they must speak up in self-defense.

“About 20 years ago, HRM Okumagba, before then President Olusegun Obasanjo, pointed at senior military officers seated inside the Petroleum Training Institute, PTI, Conference Auditorium, Effurun, near Warri, told the President that he should look no further looking for oil thieves because the military officers inside the auditorium were the thieves.”

“Also recall that around 2008, they tried some senior naval officers for bunkering. The menace did not start today.
“Tompolo and Dokubo-Asari do not need to name the alleged military men involved. Both of them can do a brief for the President wherein they can mention names. Then the President can institute an independent investigation. They should treat anybody found culpable as an economic saboteur.

“It is not the first time they have revealed that military personnel were involved in oil, Tompolo, made similar allegations, last year

“Other Niger Delta leaders and ex-agitators had stated same, but the fear is that naming the officers, and personnel involved will tantamount to exposing oneself to persecution, attack, and death because the oil cabal is powerful,” he added.

‘Fail man ship’ —Prof Muoboghare, ex-commissioner

A former Commissioner for Higher Education in Delta State, Prof. Patrick Muoboghare, stated: “There are many things Dokubo-Asari said, including handling security in Abuja and Kaduna, what are the military men doing. What he said is actually common knowledge in the Niger Delta that some military men and police personnel lobby to go to the creeks, not because they want to checkmate anything, but because they want to make money.”

“It is common knowledge that they are making money from the creeks. When you are doing research, it is not by reading books, you go down, and you mingle with the people. Let the security men mingle with the people of the Niger Delta, and they will know.

“That is how to do investigation, you go undercover, and anybody that has done undercover work would have gathered information that security personnel are involved.

“Forget about the occasional burning of tankers that are loaded with crude oil. That is criminal against the environment, you just gather three to five tankers, is that all the oil that is stolen from the Niger Delta? That is ‘fail man ship’.

Bunkering carried out at military checkpoints— Ozobo, activist

A Niger Delta activist, Comrade Austin Ozobo said, “It is not new that military is aiding and abetting oil theft in Niger Delta. Dokubo-Asari is not the first person to have said this. Several reports on the bunkering activities in the country had fingered the military. We witness it in several occasions. Go to the Forcados Terminal in Delta State, you will see by yourself.”

“Go to the Southern Ijaw, you will see by yourself. They carry out bunkering operations right at the military checkpoints. They transport the through military checkpoints and give bunkering vessels military cover to load oil in Niger Delta.

“The military outbursts over Dokubo-Asari revelation surprised me . I believe President Tinubu is well abreast with the system. Except he is from Niger Republic, else, he should know the true position of things in the country.
“The security agencies polluted and destroyed our rivers and lands when they were in charge of oil surveillance contracts. He should patiently investigate the situation from 2015 to 2022 and between 2022 and 2023, now that Tompolo is handling oil surveillance. the connivance of the military. He should ensure that the military officers involved face the music.

“Tinubu should protect whistleblowers. Give them the support and cover to ensure that the cartel does them no harm.
“However, I do not expect the military to ask Dokubo-Asari to name the military men involved in crude oil bunkering. If they do that, definitely that will be a threat to peace in the Niger Delta region. Though the sky will not fall if Dokubo-Asari mentions the names of the military officers involved.

“I also think that the military might have challenged Dokubo-Asari to mention personnel involved to enable them to carry out a disciplinary action against such officers, and not to witch-hunt him. You know Dokubo-Asari has outgrown the level the military will unlawfully intimidate him.

“Therefore, I do not think that will amount to a death warrant. There is no cause for alarm. If Dokubo-Asari wishes to name them, okay, else there is no need for that. Let us not drag ourselves with the past, but make policies to strengthen our today and tomorrow.

“Mentioning military officers involved will not bring the needed solution, rather the country will spend money unnecessarily for legal battles with the accused persons.

“Again, apart from the military, there are other cartels involved, such as oil companies’ managers and government officials. Outside the declared daily production in the country, managers and foreign officials in the oil sector illegally load vessels to sell abroad daily.

“Some government officials and others operating oil wells are deeply involved in the fraud. I do not encourage my brother, Dokubo-Asari, to mention any name. Those involved know themselves. If they failed to stop then, they should face punishment.

“For now, let the President be concerned about sanitizing the oil sector, blocking further leakages and saboteurs.

Military not responsible for 99% theft — Tonye Cole

All Progressives Congress, APC governorship aspirant in Rivers State since 2019, Tonye Cole, asserted: “There is nothing new in what Dokubo-Asari said, but 99 per cent military involvement is way too much. I do not think the military is upset with Dokubo-Asari for accusing them of involvement.”

“ Those at the helm of security cannot deny there are bad eggs among them, who aid oil theft, but to say 99 per cent means he (Asari) assumed that almost all the oil theft happening is being done solely by the military.”

Navy should have kept quiet–Nsuke, MOSOP president

The President, Movement for Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, Fegalo Nsuke, told Saturday Vanguard: “Military involvement in crude oil theft is something we already knew and long established. Dokubo-Asari only re-echoed it. It is not just the army and navy, police are also involved.”

“Asari is not talking about what is new. The pipelines run in our communities and we see what happens to them. We see how they truck the stolen products across the country in a coordinated logistics system. Therefore, they cannot ask Asari or anyone else to name people they always transfer and replace.

“Former governor of Rivers state, Nyesom Wike, accused a brigade commander of this same crime, what was the response of the Defence Headquarters? They did nothing. MOSOP has severally raised the issue also, and they did nothing in response.

“To better understand police and military involvement, begin by seeking answers to how fake products get to petrol stations far and near despite the security on the roads. Understanding that alliance will bring you to the compromises that follow because they reported and investigated these crimes to the security posts, within the domains they moved the products.

”So it ends with alliances instead of punishments. However, it is much bigger than that. It has become a huge business and several incidences have shown compromise between the oil thieves and the military men sent to secure the pipelines.

“It is a complex and coordinated crime. It would have been better for the navy to be silent and use their intelligence to investigate these allegations, address the issues because they are real and Asari does not need to name anyone.

Wake-up call to military — Gbemre, activist

National Coordinator, Niger Delta Peace Coalition, Zik Gbemre, observed, “What Dokubo-Asari said is not new. Has the military forgotten that ex-governor, Wike, openly indicted security operatives of owning illegal refineries in his state when he was governor? He told some security operatives to their faces that they could not do such illegal bunkering activities in his state.”

“Only a fool will say the security operatives are not involved. Who are the people policing the Nigeria waters, and creeks? Nigerian army personnel secure all the oil installations, including pipelines, in the land areas of the South-South, while the navy personnel operate in the creeks and sea where this illegal bunkering is taking place.

“The vessels used are big to be noticed by navy, who are the security in charge of the waterways in the South-South, including the sea. The tankers that oil thieves use are visible for the army to see in the land areas. These illegal refineries are visible for the DSS, Police, Army, and Navy personnel to notice.

“Oil companies provide houseboats for the military in the swamp to guard oil installations. Are they saying they are not aware of all these booming illegal bunkerings? Is the oil theft fake? Again, what is the role of the Department of Security Service, DSS, supposed to provide intelligence to the army, and police to act on when crude oil theft is going unrestrained?

“The money used in paying all security operatives comes from the export of crude oil and gas. They cannot be sitting in the comfort of their offices to protect oil facilities. The multi-billion surveillance contract given to Tompolo is an indictment on the military, Police, DSS, civil defence corps, and not exonerating Dokubo-Asari.

“If they were doing their work without compromise, no person would hire Tompolo’s company to do that job with bloated contract sum.

“What Dokubo-Asari has said is a wake-up call to the military, and co-security operatives to do the work the country recruited them to do. If there was no oil theft, no person will point accusing fingers at them.

“Tinubu should match action with words and punish military officers, police, DSS, all charged with securing the responsibility if they cannot protect the oil facilities. Posting them out is not enough. There should be consequences for those who cannot do their jobs.

“As for the NNPCL and NUPRC top officials, they should punish them for aiding illegal bunkering as well. It is not possible for that large-scale illegal bunkering without the observation of NNPCL and NUPRC military, DSS, Police, Nigeria security and civil corps. The vessels are too big that the military will not notice them stealing crude oil.

“In most cases, the security operatives do not respond if they are informed of hot taps on pipelines by surveillance contractors, and security teams of oil companies.

“The top security officers merely sit in their air-conditioned offices to wait for people who will give them information.

“Firing service chiefs is not enough to solve the insecurity and unprotected pipelines in the South-South. If security heads responsible for protecting lives, properties, and national oil assets are not punished for their deliberate failures, then it means the illegal sabotage, insecurity to lives and property will persist.”

Protect whistle-blowers for more information–Morris, environmentalist

Renowned environmentalist and Head/Manager, Programme, Niger Delta Resource Centre, Alagoa Morris, said: “Just as whistleblowers are given desired protection globally, this should not be an exception. We know that because of the need to distort the truth, wrongdoers, especially criminals, would like to fight anyone trying to expose them.”

“But, if the system is having the moral and political capacity, truth-tellers should not have any reason to fear as their safety would be guaranteed by society. After all, Dokubo-Asari is not the first to point fingers in that direction.

“The fact that illegal bunkering has led the production of crude oil to assume pre-presidential Amnesty levels is unfortunate when the Niger Delta is so militarized. If with the presence of the military in the creeks the way they are, such huge oil thievery is happening, the allegation should get a reasonable percentage of what could be true indeed.
“Do not forget that the book, “The Riddle of the Oil Thief”, published, a few years ago, by a former military personnel and, now Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama kingdom, King Bubaraye Dakolo, Agada IV, Chairman, Traditional Rulers Council, Bayelsa state. Reading that book also points in that direction.

“Besides, I was part of the Bayelsa State Security Week of 2014 panellists, who discussed oil theft. A naval office, r who presented a paper actually indicted the military and other security agencies, plus the NNPCL; all at the export terminals.

They shared his paper though the word “restricted” was on the top of every page.

“Get the leadership of communities involved, our communities should play an effective and active part in the oil business. The military may assist the communities in case of fighting identified oil thieves.”

On mentioning names, he said, “The right thing to do is discreetly follow up, proper investigation, and report back. Credible civil society organisations and security experts should be involved as consultants to follow up and report to the Presidency.”

“The likes of the GOC, Tompolo, Asari, King Bubaraye Dakolo, etc should be commended for their bravery, risk-taking and patriotic gesture in coming up with their public pronouncements.

”There is a need to set up an independent inquiry to unravel the truth or otherwise of this reoccurring allegation. Some of us have also been privileged to hear from locals how some military operatives in the creeks have aided and abated the crime.”

Tinubu should ask service chiefs to unravel culprits–Ambakederimo

A Niger Delta leader, Elder Joseph Ambakederimo, said: ”The issue raised by Dokubo-Asari is not new after all. For us in the South-South Reawakening Group, SSRG, this matter would have been better news if he (Asari) had remained silent and allowed the President to direct the service chiefs to do a painstaking investigation to unravel the culprits rather than this blanket cover of naming every military personnel as involved in oil theft.”

“We urge President Bola Tinubu to take caution in reacting to this matter. We advise the President to use the internal disciplinary mechanism of the military to take its course.

“The military can identify its officers, , who may have been involved in such untoward scandal and mete out sanctions accordingly.

“We have many laws in our statute book they can invoke against culprits, whether military personnel or civilian. The military has laws within its system to punish wrongdoers, they are court marshalled, and even stand trial in civil courts.

“Therefore, there are enough stipulations to deal with what offenders can face. We cannot every time be making laws for every wrong by people. We have enough laws to contend.

“Naming the officers involved in oil theft is neither here nor there. The President should order the military to do internal housecleaning.

“The people of the region too, are neck deep and in connivance with the military personnel in this stealing of oil. Therefore, we cannot segregate our own people from complicity, so coming out to castigate the military alone is disingenuous on the path of some of us.

“Again, we warn that never again should this episode repeat itself by allowing ordinary Nigerians to run down the military in this sordid manner. There are bad-behaved elements in every organisation as you can find everywhere, but to talk down on our military with reckless abandon is counterproductive.

“A quiet discussion with the President would have been a much more civilized strategy.

“Going forward we can sense a rivalry brewing among militants or self-styled ‘generals’ in the region, which could lead to renewed restiveness. Everyone is trying to show closeness to the President for some kind of self-elevation and use that to further his nest.

”The other side of Dokubo-Asari’s outburst is employing the style of the politicians by castigating others to get cosy with the President, but using the military for such a mundane purpose is dangerous. We should not encourage such behaviour in the future. ,

“Inviting Tompolo would mean trying to do some balancing or remedy a feisty cold war among non-state actors that the state is trying to appease. If this is the case, then the President has gotten himself into a very dangerous situation. The earlier the President stop this charade called visits the better for him.

“The President is allowing name droppers unfettered access to him and this could bring some blow-back.”

No need to mention names–Amaebi, lawyer

A legal practitioner and minority rights activist, Clarkson Amaebi, said: “Dokubo-Asari said nothing new. Even the present administration is aware that the top brass of the military is involved in the so- called oil theft.”

“Military personnel lobby their superiors to be posted to the Niger- Delta. They do not load crude oil in speedboats or dugout canoes into the high seas. This is even more obvious considering the fact military presence is all over the creeks and waterways, so how do the vessels enter our territorial waters undetected by the Navy.

“Dokubo-Asari does not need to mention names, let the military do self-cleansing if it wants to purge itself of such embarrassment.”

Dokubo-Asari acting Tinubu script–Umoh, lawyer

Cross-River-based legal practitioner, Orchadson Umoh, said: “It is not really inconceivable that the military men sent to the Niger Delta to help keep a check on the cases of oil bunkering will actually be involved in the bunkering, which is why the bickering is escalating instead of minimizing.”

”When Nigerians received the very direct accusation by Dokubo-Asari that up to 99 per cent of oil theft can be traced to the Nigerian military, especially Army and Navy, he was not saying something strange.

”This is a new administration, these things can change. Dokubo-Asari has nothing to be afraid of, for not all military officers are involved in oil theft, or are proud of such involvement.

”The only surprise was where he said it, and the occasion. They prepared a table for him in Aso Rock with the President in the next room. Nigerians cannot wave away the idea that the president actually wanted him to say what he said from that throne to Nigerians.

”Under this circumstance, you can see that the president wanted to achieve something. I think he wanted to garner public support for whatever action he had in mind to take.

”Shuffling the leadership of the Nigerian navy or the army would certainly be within the contemplation of the president as a solution, especially that of the navy. If you place that side by side with the idea that the change of the service chiefs was an inevitable event, you can see how a master political tactician met everything and every score.

”The very next hours, the president announced the change of the service chiefs. I think many people wanted to condemn the response of the military, which had reacted to the accusation by just asking Dokubo-Asari to show evidence of military involvement in oil bunkering. That was just a stereotypical response.

”However, honestly, we cannot continue like that as far as the government revenue from oil is concerned. We need every drop of oil we can drill to get to the market. Maximize our revenue and apply it for the good of all.

”Therefore, a new military leadership moving in that direction would simply either quietly or otherwise invoke its disciplinary powers, and caution its officers against involvement in oil bunkering, and bring real professionalism to the fore in the operations and make it a thing of the past.

”That is what the president would expect; that is what we all expect, therefore, let us see real action in the fight against oil stealing; can the Nigerian navy not deliver on this mandate?

”Let us forget about the cabal in oil stealing, get someone within the military to go stop that stealing or is there no Nigerian officer, who is honest again?

”The president I believe understands that if he expects performance, then he must give sufficient support and backing.

”The biggest problem would have been the Niger Deltans themselves, but we have the situation that they are the ones shouting out about the stealing.

”Therefore, what other cabal are we talking about again except such that has been made up of the same people whose job is to catch the thieves? “

Source: VANGUARD

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