Insecurity of the waterways is one of the major challenges facing the Niger Delta. This is due to the heinous activities of sea pirates and other criminal elements operating from the creeks of the region.
It could be recalled that oil thievery, pipeline vandalism, militancy, disruption or any form of insecurity in the maritime sector was not as popular as it is today in the sixties, until towards the end and of course from year 2000, when things changed.
Some stakeholders in the oil and gas industry believe that those who are responsible for maritime insecurity are children that were born from early year 2000.
Speaking at the Annual Lecture of the Federated Correspondents Chapel of the Bayelsa State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) held at Marto Crystal Hotel in Yenagoa, HRM King Bubaraye Dakolo, Agada IV, Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom said that to take care of Maritime security is easy if the Nigeria government desires to do so.
He noted that oil thievery became attractive in the region due to the failure of government both at the federal and state level to provide the enabling environment for these children to be properly educated and sources of livelihood provided for them to actualize their full potentials.
According to him, since these things are not readily available for them, perhaps they would want to look at how else to make a living which is what is making the system as hot as it can be imagined.
He posited that it is possible to discourage these thieves or these disruptors’ only if there can be an alternative.
King Bubaraye said, “The need to have a functional economy and for human beings around this area to have a sustainable source of livelihood is a prerequisite to discourage this madness.
“If we do not look at that, if it is difficult for normal human being who has even managed to earn himself some training to survive, then of course whatever he thinks he has to do to earn a living, he will do it.
“So I am thinking that it will be easier and cheaper for the Nigerian state and for the navy too, if they advise the powers that be that, there has to be a conscious effort to train young persons into farming, ICT, vocational training and other means of better livelihood.
“For the navy and all the security agencies responsible for maritime security, beyond what you are doing, I am thinking that an easier way will be that preventive way which is to make sure that the minds of the people around and means of livelihood are also rejigged in a manner that people are gainfully engaged and then perhaps oil thievery becomes very unattractive that nobody would want to go into it.
“People are still afraid to use the waterways because they are being kidnapped. We can minimize this hit by ensuring that something else is done; something preventive and which is to have robust economy so that people will have a better source of livelihood”, he said.
Also, the Flag Officer Commanding Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Obinwanne Egbuchulam said that the Nigeria maritime environment is endowed with enormous oil and gas resources, the exploration and production of which requires the use of costly facilities.
The FOC represented by the Commander in-charge of NNS Soroh, Commodore Patrick Effah noted that these facilities are of vital economic interest to the nation, adding that the facilities are susceptible to threats and therefore need to be protected to ensure the survival of the oil and gas industry.
“These threats which could undermine the operations of the oil and gas industry include sabotage and crude oil theft, illegal bunkering as well as piracy and sea robbery among others.
“In order to combat the identified maritime threats, the Nigeria navy acquired maritime domain awareness facilities to enhance its surveillance and interdiction ability.
“Nigeria navy has equally shown commitment to strengthen international collaboration as part of efforts to improving maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea and by extension redeem the Nigeria waters through active participation in Bilateral and multilateral efforts to enhance collective security.
“In further demonstration of our commitment to protect the nation’s oil and gas industry, the Nigeria navy initiated the conduct of a biennial international maritime conference and regional sea exercise.
“Other measures taken by the Nigeria navy to tackle maritime crime include, enhancing the response capability of the Nigeria navy through the acquisition of more patrol vessels and aircrafts.
“Future perspective for improve operational efficiency and effective policing of the nation’s maritime domain for improved security of the oil and gas industry includes strengthening existing collaboration, regional and global navies and the organized private sector”, he said.
Commending the NUJ Federated Correspondents Chapel for the annual lecture, the Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information, Hon. Ayibaina Duba said the theme: “Maritime Security: Implications for Nigeria’s Oil & Gas Industry” is very apt, hinting that Bayelsa State have been known for is oil and gas when it comes to sources of revenue and all that is associated with it.
He said, “Unfortunately, when Nigeria as a nation decided to redistribute the proceeds for this resources, certain parameters were used and when it comes to Bayelsa state, the statutory parameters that are used are little or nothing.
“What we rely basically on as a source of revenue to do all that government does for this people is the 30% derivative. And again, that 30% is based on oil and gas.
“Therefore, if there is no maritime security to safeguard our oil installations because as a state, we are more deltan than Delta State; more riverine than Rivers State. A great percentage of the land of Bayelsa State is riverine and which is where the navy comes in.
“For a country where like Bayelsa as a state, does not even have a total knowledge of what amount of crude and gas is produced. The little that we know if it is stolen through criminal elements, then we will have little or nothing to do whatever that we are doing”, he emphasized.
In a welcome address, the Chairman, FCC, NUJ Bayelsa, Chris Eze said the lecture series which has come a long way since it was instituted was part of the effort by the chapel to contribute to the development of the society.
He said this year’s theme could therefore not have come at a better time, adding that Nigeria is currently facing what is unarguably the worst security challenge in her 61years of existence as a nation.
“As we may all know, the exploration and exploitation of oil globally is now moving onshore to offshore and this brings into focus concern over the safety of the multi-billion dollar oil installations and personnel on the high sea working hard to ensure that the economy of nation dependent on oil does not go down”, he said.