The National Assembly should strengthen the laws relating to oil theft and maritime insecurity
At a period when oil theft and maritime insecurity have become issues of global concern, statistics revealed that rather than the problem abating, they are actually increasing in Nigeria. According to a recent statement by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Nigeria is losing about N7tn annually to maritime insecurity and other revenue leakages arising from oil theft. Dogara noted further that to arrest leakages and insecurity, the country must strengthen its maritime sector by addressing the issues of lack of capacity and weak laws.
Dogara’s statement was sequel to the Court of Appeal’s judgment upholding a Federal High Court sentencing of nine foreigners – five Filipinos and four Bangladeshi – of stealing Nigeria’s oil to five years each in prison. That was only one instance as there are so many unreported cases since illegalities in Nigeria waters are perpetrated virtually every day. In fact, the stealing of our oil is not limited to foreigners. Some unscrupulous Nigerians are also neck deep in the nefarious act. It is a business involving so many actors within and outside the country.
The situation is not helped by the fact that Nigeria’s territorial waters have a yet-to-be enumerated river craft. Several pertinent questions remain unanswered about this vexatious situation. Are there ways out of the challenges posed by oil theft and maritime insecurity in the country? Is there any solution to the rampant theft of our oil? Will it ever come to an end?
It must be noted that one of the factors responsible for the continuous stealing of our oil is the dearth of adequate laws to address headlong the problem of oil theft and maritime insecurity. Those involved in the nefarious acts have often exploited the loopholes in the existing laws of the land to escape justice. Therefore, one of the ways out of the problem is for the National Assembly to enact a fresh bill that will address the present loopholes in the existing laws relating to oil theft and maritime insecurity.
The Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside attested to this fact when he assured Nigerians that his agency would soon present what he called “Anti-Piracy Bill” to the National Assembly. Collaboration among the security agencies rather than working at cross purposes will also help to address the problem. This will help in no small way to enhance co-operation and intelligence gathering mechanism that will give the government agencies an edge in the fight against oil theft.
The identification of all river craft in our waterways also needs to be pursued vigorously. If this is achieved, it will curb the present situation in Nigeria waterways where many vessels cannot be accounted for in terms of the cargo and the crew, port of origin and port of destination. Moreover, an intensive enlightenment campaign should be carried out by the relevant government agencies, especially in the coastal communities so that they can be in a better position to give support in the fight against oil theft and maritime insecurity.
There is also need to get those who are highly knowledgeable about the fight against oil theft and maritime insecurity at the helms of affairs. This is not unconnected with the fact that a professional calling the shot will not only take the right decisions in terms of good policy initiatives in addressing the problem but also pursue the implementation with vigour and precision. This is imperative in the search for solution to what has become a national security concern. And until the federal government sees it as such, there will be no solution and Nigeria will continue to lose on all fronts.