By Sumaila Ogbaje
The Nigerian Army and Navy have reacted to allegations by ex-Niger Delta militant leader, Asari Dokubo, that some cabals in the military are involved in oil theft in the region.
Dokubo made the claims when he visited President Bola Tinubu in Abuja on Friday.
The Director, Army Public Relations, Brig.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu said the Nigerian Army had been vigorously engaged in the fight against illegal oil bunkering, oil theft, illegal oil refining and other sundry crimes in the region with positive results.
Nwachukwu, who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Abuja, said the Army’s intervention had produced positive results.
This, he said, was evident in the increase in daily oil production from an abysmally dwindling output in the past.
Nwachukwu said the Nigerian Army had zero tolerance for any compromise on the part of its troops and would not condone any act of economic sabotage.
He promised that the Army authority would not spare any black sheep in its fold if identified.
“The Nigerian Army has been vigorously engaged in the fight against illegal oil bunkering, oil theft, illegal oil refining and other sundry crimes in the Niger Delta.
“And this has yielded positive results as evident in the increase in daily oil production per barrel from an abysmally dwindling output in the past.
“The Nigerian Army has zero tolerance for any compromise on the part of our troops and will not condone such acts of economic sabotage.
“No black sheep will be spared if identified,” he said.
In its reaction, the Nigerian Navy described as spurious, the allegations by Dokubo.
The Director of Naval Information, Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday in Abuja, challenged Dokubo to produce evidence and names of those behind the criminality.
He said the Nigerian military, and the Navy in particular, had been at the forefront of fighting crude oil theft at all levels in the country, stressing that while crude oil being stolen from pipelines were being refined in the creeks for the local market and the local buyers, it was also being stolen by criminals from offshore at sea.
“You remember the case of MT HEROIC IDUN that was made to pay fines to the Nigerian government after they were arrested and brought back from Guinea Bissau, Malabo Island and made to face court orders.
“It demonstrated the will of the Navy to go as far as even beyond our waters to arrest a ship that attempted to load without license, without due approval in April last year.
“I was there physically on board one of our ships at FOT in Onne when the Navy launched Operation Dakatarda Barawo, which means stop the thief in Hausa language.
“Stop the thief that is stealing the nation’s natural resources, the hydrocarbons.
“Nigerian Navy has been fighting crude oil theft, taking the fight to the creeks and as I speak to you, our men are battling in the creeks.
“So, what I will just say is, Asari Dokubo is seeking some form of relevance and whatever.
“He alleges that there is a cabal of military people that are involved in crude oil theft, let him bring the names.
“Nobody is afraid of getting the names of those involved in crude oil theft.
“You cannot make such spurious allegations and think that we will just sweep it down the carpet,” he said.
Ayo-Vaughan said neither the Chief of Defense Staff nor the Chief of Naval Staff will condone such act.
According to him, the Nigerian Navy will not be distracted by the allegations and will continue to be actively involved in the fight against crude oil theft and resources in the Niger Delta.
“So for anybody to say that there is a cabal of military officers, the only simple thing to do is bring the evidence, bring the names,” he stressed.
The Navy spokesman said that the efforts of the Nigerian military in the Niger Delta was the reason Nigeria regained top spot in oil production in the month of May among oil producing countries in Africa, as confirmed by OPEC, NUPRC and others.