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‘Oil vessels aren’t spirits’ — Ozekhome asks navy to take responsibility for crude oil theft

‘Oil vessels aren’t spirits’  — Ozekhome asks navy to take responsibility for crude oil theft
August 31
14:48 2023

Mike Ozekhome, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), says the Nigerian Navy needs to take responsibility for crude oil theft in the country. 

Ozekhome spoke on Wednesday at the ongoing Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) annual general conference at the national stadium in Abuja.

He said the navy and top government officials are to blame for oil theft, adding that they have the responsibility to protect the nation’s territorial waters.

“If you have a security man in your house and thieves invade your house, you will definitely blame the security man,” NAN quoted Ozekhome as saying.

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“The Navy is saddled with the responsibility of protecting our territorial waters of crude oil theft and so it cannot say  it is free from theft of crude oil in the country.

“How can the Navy say that they do not know how a huge vessel will disappear from the high sea as if it is a spirit?

“These vessels that carry this stolen crude are escorted by security personnel. Who are these personnel? Is it not the Navy’s responsibility?”

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The lawyer asked the navy to call out persons responsible for oil theft for prosecution.

“How can you arrest a vessel with crude worth billions of naira and only impose a fine of N500,000?” he asked.

Ozekhome urged the Nigerian government to empower and employ the youths, adding that this will stop them from engaging in illegal activities.

NAVY PERSONNEL RESPOND

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In his reaction, Obiora Anyikwa of the Nigerian Navy, identified crude oil theft, smuggling and illegal refineries as major security threats in Nigeria’s maritime environment.

Anyikwa said due to the efforts of the navy, Nigeria has been removed from the list of piracy-prone countries.

He enumerated one of the major challenges confronting the navy in the fight against piracy and crude oil theft to include participation of non state actors.

“Participation of non state actors undermine the authority of the navy in performing its duties,” he said.

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“Lack of prosecutorial powers and lack of appropriate maritime legislations as well as lack of funding are some other challenges.”

He said empowering maritime lawyers to prosecute maritime related cases would go a long way in making the job of the navy less tedious.

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He identified maritime surveillance, response capacity and enforcement of maritime laws as the most efficient ways to curb the activities of pirates and oil thieves.

Also speaking as a panelist, Patrick Effah, a navy personnel, decried what he described as enormous misinformation about the institution.

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He agreed that corruption and compromise were some of the factors responsible for the thriving business of piracy and crude oil theft.

He also lamented that there are some forces in government making their job difficult.

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“When we arrest a vessel with abundant evidence of illegal crude, we are inundated with court orders to release such vessels,” Effah said.

“Even when they are prosecuted, very minimal fines are given and they are released. How can that be the fault of the navy?”

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