NIMASA, air force move to battle oil thieves, pirates

LAGOS – The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Nigerian Air Force have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to battle oil thieves and pirates on Nigerian waters.

The MoU will afford both agencies the opportunity to address the issue of sea robbery and oil theft that has been taking its toll on the nation’s economy using constant air surveillance to safeguard the maritime domain.

Nigeria is said to have lost as much as $1.2 billion from crude theft in a single month in the first quarter of 2013 following incidences of illegal bunkering and sea piracy.

Oil bunkeryThe trade in oil theft led to a 17 percent fall in official oil sales in the first quarter of 2013, estimated at 400,000 barrels per day, Kingsley Kuku, special adviser to the president on Niger Delta, was cited as saying.

Recent reports have indicated Nigeria loses about $6 billion in annual revenue due to oil thieves tapping pipelines to sell crude on the lucrative black market, with the $1.2 billion loss cited in the statement calculated on the basis of a $121 per-barrel oil price in the first quarter.

The International Energy Agency recently blamed Nigerian oil theft for damage to pipeline infrastructure as well as cutting OPEC’s output volumes.

Activities of pirates in the Gulf of Guinea as captured by a recent study of an advocacy group in June 2013 cost the world economy between $740 million and $950 million last year, with indication of a possible rise this year, if proper measures were not taken to check excesses of pirates in the region.

While signing the MoU at the defence headquarters in Abuja on Monday, Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi, director general of NIMASA, said that the MoU, which was provided for in the NIMASA Act, will send a clear message of difficult times to those involved in the act of illegal bunkering, oil theft and piracy.

According to him, the MoU will enable NIMASA to make use of the facilities owned by the Nigerian Air Force without having to waste resources buying new equipment like aircraft for area surveillance.

“All we need to do is provide the air force with the necessary logistics support to carryout search and rescue as well as area surveillance”, he said.

“When there is a danger in the waterways, we need the search and rescue effort of the Nigerian Air Force. And with this support, we will be able to bring down crime in our maritime domain to a very low rate or even eliminate it”, the director general said.

The NIMASA boss assured that bureaucracy in the civil service will not be allowed to hinder the speed of action on providing the needed logistics to further the MoU.

– BUSINESS DAY

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