The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Mohammed Bello-Koko has explained that rogue vessels engaged in crude oil theft on Nigerian waters go undetected because they turn off their Automatic Identification System (AIS).
Koko briefed State House correspondents on Tuesday in Abuja, saying such ships evade arrest because they switch off their onboard automated identification system which displays the vessel’s position in the vicinity.
He noted that the authority does not have the required technology to detect their origin or destination.
Speaking against the backdrop of a recent incident where an oil tanker evaded arrest in Nigeria after illegally lifting crude oil, Koko said the NPA is now in the process of procuring the technology called the Vessel Tracking Service (VTS) to enable it to identify, locate and monitor all vessels in the nation’s waters.
According to him, the agency has been trying to acquire the VTS for about 10 years now and has just identified a certified consultant, while also working with the Nigeria Liquefied and Natural Gas (NLNG) Company to help with critical detection.
He further assured that the technology will be procured before the end of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Oil theft has made the headlines in recent times with the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi; and Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State demanding the unbundling and privatisation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited.
Worried by the ugly trend, the Federal Government in August awarded a pipeline surveillance contract to a company led by former militant leader Government Ekpemepulo aka Tompolo, a situation that received criticisms from many Nigerians, including human rights lawyer, Femi Falana who described the response as a “colossal embarrassment” to security agencies in the country.
In August, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the NNPC, Mele Kyari, justified the government’s decision to award the multi-billion naira pipelines surveillance contract to Tantita Security Services led by Tompolo.
Tompolo’s firm recently made startling revelations on crude oil theft in the Niger Delta area. He said about 58 illegal oil points have been discovered so far since the operation to end oil theft on the waterways of Delta and Bayelsa states began.