Recently, the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited or NNPC LTD, said Tantita Security Services, a private security contractor it had engaged in tackling oil theft, had intercepted a suspicious vessel with a cargo of crude oil.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, has been bedevilled with incessant oil theft. The Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative or NEITI, claims that the country lost about 619.7 million barrels of crude oil valued at N16.25 trillion ($46.16 billion) to crude oil theft between 2009 and 2020.
In the statement signed by Garba Deen Muhammad, Chief Corporate Communications Officer of the NNPC, the group said the vessel was heading to Cameroun with about 800,000 barrels of crude oil cargo on board when apprehended.
The statement read that said Preliminary investigations revealed that the “crude oil cargo onboard was illegally sourced from a well jacket offshore Ondo State, Nigeria. There was no valid documentation for the Vessel or the Crude Oil Cargo onboard at the time of the arrest.”
The company threatened to destroy the vessel, and true to their threats, they did.
On July 11, Nigerian media-television, print and online- were replete with news of the Nigerian military sinking the ship in the creeks of the Niger Delta. In fact, a video shared by Channels Television showed a military helicopter circling the vessel before dropping rounds of admonition that set the ship on fire.
This is not Nigeria’s first time using this route to dispense “justice”.
In October last year, the Nigerian military in Warri, Delta State, set another vessel apprehended with an unspecified amount of illegal crude oil on fire.
Nigeria’s route in dispensing these oil thieves only points to the nation’s lack of creativity in tackling crime and announces a lack of awareness of climate change and environmental degradation.
There is nothing that screams “we don’t care about the environment” like emptying thousands of barrels of crude oil into the open sea.
For a nation still struggling with reversing the devastating effect of the Ogoni spill, where more than 2 million barrels of oil spilt through decades of oil activities, and contaminated thousands of hectares of land, Nigeria seems terrible at learning its lessons.
According to a report, Ogoni “is one of the most polluted places on Earth. The crops are burnt to a cinder, ash and tar smother the land and the wells are polluted with oil, making the water totally undrinkable. Entire communities have suffered as the oil industry has destroyed their way of life.”
And activities like this one only lead to Ogoni.
Nigeria, a signatory to many global climate and environmental agreements, should know that actions like this not only cause harm to the atmosphere but also contaminate the water source for a region that, though Nigeria’s cash cow, still lacks basic amenities like clean drinking water and health care.
Throwing a bomb that sinks a vessel laden with at least 800,000 barrels of crude is not just an economic crime but an environmental one. This is even worse when one considers that the communities around where this vessel was sunk depend on the water for their sustenance, as they are mostly fishing people.
These communities woke up one morning to their source of likelihood filled with the carcass of a burning vessel and 800,000 barrels of oil.
As expected, environmentalists in the country raised the alarm over the incident, calling out the government for taking such an ignoble decision.
Nnimo Bassey, the executive director at Health of Mother Earth Foundation or HOMEF described the incident as “extremely disturbing.”
In a statement to the media, Bassey “Destroying a vessel loaded with 800,000 barrels of crude oil should be taken as a new low in the demonstration of wastefulness on the part of those who should be watching over the nation’s resources.”
He added, “If that crude volume is correct, this must be one of the largest volumes of crude oil spilt in one incident.” and that security operatives, “In this incident, they have demonstrated utter disregard for our constitutional right to a safe environment.”
Nnimo said the action of the Nigerian state means “destruction of fisheries and livelihoods. It also means directly poisoning our people,” he added.
Also speaking, Olumide Idowu, executive director of the International Climate Change Development Initiative, said the action of the Federal government “is actually jeopardizing the source of drinking water and agricultural irrigation, and this contamination can also affect our aquatic ecosystem and disrupt the balance of plants and animals in our population.”
But who is listening?