Operation Delta Sanity: How Nigerian Navy is Scaling Up Fight Against Oil Theft

Babajide Fadoju

Four months after Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla assumed office as Nigeria’s 22nd Indigenous Chief of the Naval Staff, Nigeria recorded its highest oil production in almost two years.

Subsequent data from Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) showed that the country’s crude oil production rose from 1.08 million barrels per day in July 2023 to an average of 1.38 million barrels per day in January and February 2024, representing a 300,000 bpd increase.

Additionally, official figures show that Nigeria’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export cargoes have increased from an average of 16 per month in 2023, to 21 monthly in the first quarter of 2024.

These rising metrics offer incontrovertible proof of the seriousness with which the Naval Chief has approached the debilitating fight against the criminality that deprives Nigeria of much-needed oil and gas revenues. In his words, they are “a testament to the positive outcome of the renewed drive by the Nigerian navy towards ensuring that oil contributes optimally to national development.”

At the start of 2024, precisely on January 6, Ogalla launched Operation Delta Sanity (OpDS), an anti-crude oil theft (COT) and anti-economic sabotage operation in the Niger Delta, with several vessels and hundreds of Naval personnel deployed on aggressive surveillance and patrols.

In the last three months, Operation Delta Sanity has recorded remarkable successes, putting oil thieves and vandals on the defensive across various parts of the Niger Delta, from Bayelsa to Ondo to Rivers to Akwa Ibom States, and beyond, with the recovery of massive quantities of stolen products, the dismantling of discovered sites, and arrest of suspects.

 Since inception, Operation Delta Sanity has recovered over 62,000 barrels of crude oil, as well as close to 1 million litres of illegally-refined diesel, petrol and kerosene; valued in total at almost N10 billion.

Successes recorded in the second half of March 2024 include the discovery, by the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) SOROH of 2 illegal refining sites, sacks, drums, hoses, pipes, two ovens, eight reservoirs containing about 53,900 litres of suspected stolen crude oil, a fibre boat containing about 1,550 litres of suspected illegally-refined diesel and 250 litres of illegally-refined kerosene.

Between March 19 and 23, a patrol team from Nigerian Navy Ship PATHFINDER discovered and dismantled three illegal refining sites, 21 Ovens, five dugout pits, 12 reservoirs, four fibre boats and one wooden boat containing about 33,000 litres of suspected stolen crude oil, in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State. A week later, NNS PATHFINDER seized 2 fibre boats containing about 3,000 litres of illegally refined diesel, around Alakiri to Isaka Axis, in Rivers State.

In Mbo LGA of Akwa Ibom State, a patrol team from the Forward Operating Base (FOB) IBAKA intercepted a wooden boat containing about 15,500 litres of suspected stolen petrol, stored in drums, and arrested one suspect. Also in Akwa Ibom, Nigerian Navy Ship JUBILEE working with 2 Brigade intercepted 3 trucks containing illegally-refined diesel.

On March 31, 2024, Forward Operating Base BONNY discovered and dismantled two illegal refining sites containing about 5,000 litres of illegally refined diesel and 10,000 litres of stolen crude oil at Cawthorne Channel and Ke General Area, in Rivers State.

On the first of April, 2024, Forward Operating Base ESCRAVOS discovered and deactivated a newly-laid hose that stretched 3km towards a Chevron Nigeria Limited pipeline at Ajudaiboo Community, Warri, Delta State. Investigations are ongoing to unravel the culprits behind the laying of the hose. That same day, at Agogboro Community, Warri Southwest, an illegal refining site with about 3,000 litres of stolen crude oil was discovered and deactivated.

These are just a handful of the most recent successes. No week has gone by this year without the Nigerian Navy reporting a major breakthrough in this fight against maritime criminality – and it is heart-warming to see attention being paid from various critical quarters.

Speaking in February 2024, at a Regimental Dinner organised by the Nigerian Navy in honour of its retired senior officers, Senate President, Godswill Akpabio said, of the Navy: “The numerous arrests of ships and individuals involved in illegal bunkering, destruction of illegal refining sites, smuggled goods and narcotics as well as the increase in oil production in Nigeria, attest to the tireless efforts of the Navy in combatting the nefarious activities undermining Nigeria’s economy.”

He added: “The nation looks up to you and expects nothing short of professionalism which you have exhibited thus far. Be assured that the National Assembly will support you with all the processes needed to succeed.”

With this kind of support guaranteed, little wonder that the Vice Admiral is boldly pressing ahead with the scaling-up of the fleet renewal programme he inherited from his predecessor.

Speaking recently, the Naval Chief disclosed: “We have categorised the fleet renewal under short, medium, and long-term plans,” adding, “The objective of the fleet renewal policy is to develop a system capable of sustaining effective and round-the-clock presence in the Exclusive Economic Zone.”

The Naval Shipyard is currently constructing 20 houseboats for brown-water operations, while the Naval Dockyard Limited is pressing ahead with the construction of the Navy’s latest Seaward Defence Boats (SDBs). The Navy is also awaiting the delivery, this year, of two high-endurance Offshore Patrol Vessels from Dearsan Shipyard of Turkey.

Additionally, in the next few weeks, the Nigerian Navy is scheduled to launch three new Fast Patrol Boats (FPBs), from China. These FPBs will inject new momentum into the policing role of the Navy within Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone and the wider Gulf of Guinea.

A few months ago, 14 gunboats donated by Akwa Ibom State Government were inducted into service. The Naval Chief has made it a priority to deepen relationships with state governments, and build the required synergy for mutual benefit.

The fight against oil theft and other forms of criminality is being waged not just in the water, but from the air as well, with cutting-edge technology. In recent months, the Nigerian Navy has taken delivery of 12 new Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), that will take the fight against oil theft to the next level. Three combat helicopters have also been ordered for the Naval Aviation unit, and are awaiting delivery.

Prior to the launch of Operation DELTA SANITY, the closing months of 2023 were very busy for the Nigerian Navy, with the flagging-off of a number of high-profile maritime exercises, including Exercise CROCODILE LIFT, Exercise GRAND AFRICAN NEMO 2023, Joint Exercise SEA GUARDIAN 2023, and Exercise NCHEKWA OSHIMIRI – all of which recorded impressive successes.

Alongside these exercises, the Navy hosted several visiting warships from foreign Navies – French Navy Ship MISTRAL; Royal Navy Ship HMS TRENT; Brazilian Navy Ship BNS LIBERAL; Indian Navy Ship SUMEDHA; and the Chinese Navy Escort Task Group, ETG 162 – a demonstration of renewed vigour towards the deepening of bilateral military relations, and mutual assistance, with these countries. More recently, on April 2, a Spanish Navy Ship, SNS BAM FUROR, arrived Lagos on a port call; the second Spanish Navy Ship to visit Nigeria in the last six months.

March 2024 marked two years since Nigeria’s delisting from the global list of piracy-prone countries, by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB). Vice Admiral Ogalla remains unflagging in his determination to maintain that record, and to set new ones.

In a March 2024 commendation letter from the Global Marine Community to the immediate-past Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the significant security improvements in Nigeria’s maritime environment were acknowledged. It is worth noting that the special security assets acquired by NIMASA for its Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure (Deep Blue project) are being operated by the Nigerian Navy.

Recently, President Bola Tinubu rolled out a new and ambitious vision for Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, encapsulated in a series of presidential directives: fiscal incentives to attract billions of dollars in new investments, reduce operating costs by as much as 40 per cent, and shorten contracting cycles by from 38 months to less than 6 months, in line with global best practice.

All of these reforms will require the underpinning of security, and Vice Admiral Ogalla is fully committed to leading a Naval Force that guarantees the enabling conditions in this regard.

In addition to this, there is the President’s blue economy agenda, which necessitated the landmark creation, in August 2023, of a Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.

 The Nigerian Navy, fully cognisant of the critical role it plays in enabling the nation’s maritime economy through security, partnered with NIMASA in November 2023 to set up a Joint Committee on Blue Economy.

At the end of May, the Navy will further demonstrate its commitment when it convenes the fifth Edition of the International Maritime Conference / Regional Maritime Exercise (INCREMEX) 2024, in Lagos, with the theme: “Promoting the Blue Economy in Africa through International Cooperation on Maritime Security.”

It will offer yet another opportunity for Africa’s leading Naval Force to showcase, under the leadership of Vice Admiral Ogalla, its domination of Nigeria’s maritime environment, through such impactful interventions as Operation DELTA SANITY, among others, in line with its constitutional mandate.

•Babajide Fadoju, a former Special Assistant to the Oyo State Governor, writes from Ibadan

Tech for Good: How Digital Tools Can Uplift Lives in Nigeria

By Emmanuel Uzo Obi

Imagine a Nigeria where…

•You can access a doctor remotely for a quick consultation, thanks to a telehealth app.

•Help arrives within minutes during an emergency, thanks to a well-coordinated response system using real-time data.

•You can easily pay bills and access government services from your phone, eliminating long queues and frustration.

•When you are sick, you can visit any healthcare facility, present your medical aid card, and get treatment without a demand for payment. Thanks to a real poverty alleviation program.

This future is closer than you think, thanks to the power of digital technology. While advanced countries are already reaping the benefits of these advancements, governments in Nigeria can leverage the same tools to significantly improve the lives of their citizens. Afterall, the banking system is already utilizing this technology to make banking a little better. Although there are long queues, over-crowding in banking halls and long lines at ATM machines, bank management can take immediate steps to mitigate these abnormal occurrences. Displaying live current wait times for bank branches online could help customers make informed decisions about when and what bank branch to visit, potentially choosing off-peak hours and can help spread out customer visits evenly throughout the day or week. This will obviously help customers to better plan their day. Banks can also, through capacity building, expand the physical capacity of banking halls, open more branches in high demand areas and increase staffing during peak hours to help manage customer volume more effectively. Let’s explore how tech can be a game-changer in key areas.

Every second counts in an emergency. By establishing well-equipped Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) staffed by trained personnel, emergency calls can be routed efficiently to the appropriate service – police, fire department, or ambulance. Imagine dialing a single number and reaching a trained professional who can pinpoint your location using advanced GPS technology, even if you are unable to speak. PSAPs are the nerve center of emergency response, ensuring timely assistance when it matters most. Developed countries like the United States have a well-established network of PSAPs that utilize advanced call routing and location tracking technologies. Our nearby neighbor Ghana already has something similar. Nigeria can invest in establishing similar infrastructure and training emergency response personnel to effectively manage emergency situations. Imagine a system that can pinpoint your location through your smartphone and dispatch help immediately, whether it is for a medical emergency, fire, or a car accident. Technology is playing a crucial role in streamlining emergency response, potentially saving lives. Additionally, wearable health monitors can automatically detect falls or other health emergencies and send alerts to emergency services, ensuring help arrives quickly for those who need it most.

Crime prevention and solving cases become more efficient with technology. Database-driven motor vehicle registration, like systems in developed countries, can track stolen vehicles and unlicensed drivers. Here in Nigeria, the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) registers all motor vehicles in Nigeria and issues driver licenses to all qualified drivers. With this in place, digital tools can be a big asset for law enforcement during traffic stops in a couple of ways, instant background checks and automated license plate readers(ALPR). Through instant background checks, officers can use mobile databases to run a driver’s license and registration in real-time. This can reveal outstanding warrants, stolen vehicles, or suspended licenses, potentially leading to the discovery of more serious crimes. For example, the officer could decide to open the boot of the vehicle and perhaps make other discoveries…one thing leads to another. The ALPR systems can scan license plates as patrol cars drive by, flagging stolen vehicles or those associated with wanted individuals. This can help catch criminals before they even know they have been spotted. One day, during the early morning busy traffic in the city of Raleigh, I was pulled over by a Raleigh police officer on a motorbike. He requested my license and registration (papers in Nigerian parlance). I politely told the officer I did not have my driver license on my person, but I gave him the driver license number. He took down the number and went back to motorbike to use his laptop to check me out. My driver license number returned my clear picture and every other thing checked out. I received a citation for speeding over the speed limit and I had the option to appear in court or mail the fine to the court. Police officers do not collect fines or money. The vehicle information that the officer retrieved showed my vehicle registration was active as well as my vehicle insurance. If the information the officer retrieved had shown my vehicle insurance had lapsed, then the officer would have been duty bound to order my car parked by the roadside because only vehicles with continuous liability insurance are allowed to be operated on the roads of North Carolina and there are no ifs or buts whatsoever. These digital tools are important because they give officers a wider picture of the situation during a routine traffic stop.

CCTV cameras with facial recognition software, implemented ethically and with proper oversight, can deter crime and assist in investigations. Technology empowers law enforcement to be more proactive and efficient in keeping communities safe. For instance, Singapore’s extensive network of CCTV cameras and advanced crime analytics software have contributed significantly to its low crime rates. However, it is crucial to strike a balance between security and privacy. The Nigerian government can establish clear guidelines and robust oversight mechanisms to ensure these technologies are used responsibly and ethically.

Technology can make our homes more secure. Home security devices can act as lifelines in emergencies by connecting you to public safety agencies through two main methods, professional monitoring, and self-monitoring. With professional monitoring, security systems connect to a central monitoring station staffed 24/7. When a sensor (smoke detector, medical alert button, etc.) is triggered, the signal is sent to the station.

Here, trained professionals can attempt to contact you to verify the emergency and if you do not respond or confirm a false alarm, dispatch the appropriate emergency services (fire department, ambulance, police) directly. Sometimes, they might even contact emergency services immediately depending on the type of sensor triggered (e.g., smoke detector). Self-Monitoring on the other hand allows you to receive alerts directly on your smartphone or connect to local authorities yourself. While this does not involve a monitoring center, it can still provide a fast way to call for help.

By providing these options, home security devices function as a vital link between your home and emergency responders, potentially saving precious time during critical situations. The Nigerian government can incentivize the adoption of affordable smart home security solutions and promote digital literacy programs to educate citizens on how to leverage technology for home security. Additionally, the government must encourage the private sector to set up professional monitoring companies that can collaborate with public safety agencies.

Healthcare on Your Phone. Telemedicine Takes Center Stage. Imagine a farmer in a remote village experiencing a sudden health concern. With telemedicine apps, they could connect with a doctor for a virtual consultation, potentially avoiding a long and expensive journey to a distant clinic. This not only improves access to healthcare but also empowers individuals to take charge of their well-being. In countries like India, for example, telemedicine has been instrumental in bridging the gap between rural areas with limited medical facilities and qualified doctors in urban centers. By establishing partnerships with healthcare providers and training local health workers to utilize telemedicine platforms, the Nigerian government can ensure more equitable access to quality healthcare for all citizens.

Learning from anywhere. Education is not limited to classrooms anymore. Distance learning platforms allow you to take courses online, at your own pace, from anywhere in the world. So that degree you’ve always wanted? Totally possible, even with a busy schedule. Online learning also opens doors for people in remote areas or those with disabilities who may not have had access to traditional education before. Imagine a young mom taking online courses to advance her career while caring for her children or someone in a rural area getting a college education without having to relocate.

Communication revolution. Connecting people and closing the gap. Mobile phone penetration in Nigeria is high, and this offers a powerful platform for communication. Government agencies can utilize text message alerts to disseminate vital information, from public health updates to disaster warnings. Social media platforms can be used for citizen engagement, allowing for a more transparent and inclusive governance model. Imagine receiving a timely notification about a free health check-up in your community or being able to voice your concerns directly to local authorities. In Estonia, a global leader in e-government, citizens can utilize a secure online portal to access a wide range of government services, from filing taxes to registering a business. Nigeria can adopt similar models, leveraging digital tools to streamline service delivery and empower citizens to participate actively in their communities.

Let’s ditch the cash splash, bags of rice all in the name of palliatives and poverty alleviation. Okay, let’s be honest. Those cash handouts the government’s been giving out? They’re like sticking a band aid on a gushing wound. We need something real, something that tackles poverty for good, not just a temporary fix. Here’s the thing: other countries have figured it out. They’ve got programs that help people climb out of poverty, not just weather it. Imagine this in Nigeria:

•Food on the Table, Not Just Cash in Hand: Forget cash. Picture a system where you swipe a card and get groceries you need.

•Healthcare Without Breaking the Bank: Medical bills should not leave you bankrupt. Think of a program where the government helps cover costs, just like Medicaid and Medicare in the US.

•Education: The Key to Unlock Your Future: School should not be a luxury. Scholarships and cheaper schooling would open doors for everyone, not just the rich. Education is the power tool to build a better life. Is the student loan program well planned before being implemented ? The initial signs are not encouraging.

•A Roof Over Your Head, Not Just Over You: Decent housing should not be a dream. Imagine getting help to afford rent or even buy a place. Digital tools can be a game-changer for governments looking to fight poverty more effectively than unplanned cash handouts. Here’s how: improved targeting, efficient delivery, transparency, and accountability. Improved targeting will allow gathering data on demographics, income levels, and geographic location. This data can be analyzed to identify the most vulnerable populations and tailor programs to their specific needs. Imagine a government using digital surveys on mobile phones to pinpoint areas with limited access to healthcare. Digital Registries: Platforms can be created to register individuals and families for poverty alleviation programs. This ensures only those who qualify receive benefits, reducing waste and fraud. Efficient delivery will involve e-payments. Distributing cash electronically (through mobile wallets or bank accounts) reduces the risk of theft and mismanagement compared to physical cash handouts. It also allows for direct transfers, eliminating the need for intermediaries. Conditional Cash Transfers: Digital tools can be used to link cash transfers to specific actions, like school attendance or health checkups. This promotes positive behavior change and breaks the cycle of poverty. Transparency & Accountability involves program monitoring and beneficiary feedback. We can look at examples from Brazil and India. Brazil’s Bolsa Familia program uses digital registries and e-payments to deliver conditional cash transfers to low-income families, improving health and education outcomes for children. India’s Aadhaar program is a digital identity system that helps target government subsidies and benefits to the right people.

Technology is transforming our world at an unprecedented pace. While there are challenges to address, such as the digital divide and the ethical use of powerful tools, the overall impact is positive. From keeping us safe and healthy to making our lives more convenient and connected, digital innovation is shaping a future full of possibilities. So next time you tap your phone to pay for a coffee, hail a ride, or connect with a loved one across the globe, take a moment to appreciate the incredible tech ecosystem that’s making it all possible.

•Emmanuel Obi is a professor of cybersecurity and public affairs analyst and writes from North Carolina.

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