Nigerian Navy, MV Heroic Idun and oil thieves

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Equatorial Guinea, a tiny island ruled by a kleptomaniac despot, has proved to be more efficient in protecting its territorial waters than Nigeria, its slumbering giant neighbour to the west.

Two weeks ago, Equatorial Guinea shocked the world when it impounded MV Heroic Idun, a giant maritime tanker loaded with three million barrels of crude oil stolen from Nigeria.

The Nigerian Navy was either in deep slumber or was paid to look away while heartless criminals loaded the ship with their loot.

A ship capable of hauling three million barrels of crude oil cannot navigate the creeks of Niger Delta where it could sneak into the high seas without being spotted by the navy. Besides, the ship was not loaded in a few days where it could have slipped in and out of the habour without anyone’s notice.

MV Heroic Idun pumps in 100, 000 barrels of oil per day. At that rate it might have spent one month pumping in the stolen three million barrels of oil. Nigerian Navy reportedly spotted MV Heroic Idun illegally loading at an off-shore rig. Interrogation confirmed that the ship had no permission to lift Nigerian oil.

The Navy reportedly ordered the ship to sail to a port in Rivers State for further interrogation but the crew defiantly sailed into international waters.

There are unconfirmed reports that the navy of Equatorial Guinea impounded MV Heroic Idun on a tip off from disgruntled Nigerian security operatives protesting the mismanagement of the mega oil theft by Nigerian Navy.

No matter which angle anyone looks at the scene of crime played up by the seizure of MV Heroic Idun with stolen Nigerian oil, the Nigerian Navy will be in a tight corner to defend itself against charges of criminal negligence or outright criminal collaboration.

Either way, the buck stops on the desk of the chief of naval staff. It is either his men are grossly incompetent or they are unabashed collaborators in the heinous crime of crude oil theft which has ruined Nigeria’s economy.

In developed economies, the chief of naval staff would have resigned his appointment or he would have been sacked if he failed to toe the path of honour.

The seizure of MV Heroic Idun in Equatorial Guinea with three million barrels of stolen Nigerian oil tells a tall tale about Nigeria’s obdurate insecurity conundrum which is partially responsible for the spiraling inflation now worsening the poverty in the land.

For a ship to spend enough time at the dock to steal three million barrels of crude oil without drawing the attention of the navy is a sad reminder of the fact that Nigeria is simply not safe.

That explains why an army with the best trained generals in Africa spent the last 11 years fighting a band of Islamic lunatics led by stark illiterates. They are almost always ambushing Africa’s largest army each time it launches an operation.

The seizure of the shipload of stolen crude oil in Equatorial Guinea has established without an iota of doubt, the indisputable fact that crude oil theft is a collaborative transaction. Some top government officials get their cuts from the crude oil thieves.

It has also discredited the navy’s penchant for blaming operators of the primitive refineries in the creeks of Niger Delta for the bulk of the crude oil theft ruining Nigeria’s economy.

The navy’s devious strategy of displaying its success in the destruction of the primitive refineries in the creeks of Niger Delta each time the federal government directs it to end crude oil theft, is deceitfully diversionary. The truth is that 200 of those primitive refineries cannot refine 1,000 barrels of crude oil in a day.

The well-wired crude oil thieves steal a minimum of 400,000 barrels per day and haul it through sea routes guarded by the navy. The navy is curiously silent on the operations of the illegal bunkering ships.

We are looking for the caliber of crude oil thieves who loaded three million barrels of crude oil in one ship and sailed into international waters.

Operators of Niger Delta’s primitive refineries paraded repeatedly by the navy are petty thieves compared to the ones it conceals.

Crude oil theft will only be halted when the navy is willing to explain how giant ships carrying stolen oil slip through its eagle eyes without protest.

Almost three weeks after Equatorial Guinea’s navy compounded the stolen oil, the identity of the mega thieves remain a mystery. By now the thieves would have been paraded if they were among Nigeria’s inconsequential majority.

The more likely reason for the curious silence by government is that the criminals are too powerful to be disgraced. They obviously are more powerful than Nigerian Navy.

Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited played Pilate in the heinous crime last week by shifting the burden of verification to the criminals in the international oil market buying crude oil stolen from Nigeria.

The corporation asked refiners to verify the sources of crude oil they refine to ensure that they do not buy stolen oil. It sounds rather ridiculous for anyone to tell someone not to buy stolen goods from a country where government officials know who is stealing from them and will never bother to find out who bought the stolen goods.

At a time when the price of Nigeria’s Bonny Light crude hovers around $115 per barrel, everyone in the international market will be looking for crude oil thieves who are willing to sell below $100 per barrel. That is the incentive for buying stolen crude oil. We can only stop the thieves, not the buyers.

At the current price, what was loaded in MV Heroic Idun is worth $345 million or N147 billion at the official exchange rate.

Nigerian government officials know the crude oil thieves. It is shameful for government to complain that oil theft has ruined the economy. Government can stop oil theft if it is willing.

The truth is that the most difficult crime to fight is the one committed by government officials. That is why crude oil theft is so difficult to halt.

Crude oil theft is a terrible embarrassment to Nigeria. The message it sends to foreign investors is that a government that cannot protect its only source of revenue cannot protect anyone’s investment.

Foreign investors respond to the message by treating Nigeria as a pariah state when they are taking investment decisions. That decision is partially responsible for the naira’s persistent depreciation.

Foreign investors will return when government can protect its only source of revenue by stopping crude oil theft.