Operation Dakatar Da Barawo: Navy, NNPC’s blueprint against oil theft

 …Operation has barred diversion of over N30bn crude – Naval Chief

‘…Claims about oil thievery volumes outrageous, unrealistic’

….Military not involved in oil theft – DHQ

The lingering menace of oil theft in the Niger Delta region has been a source of concern to the government and stakeholders in the oil and gas sector. BENJAMIN SAMSON in this report examines the efforts being made by the Nigerian military to halt the trend.  

Background/the operation

Operation Dakatar Da Barawo which means ‘stop the thief’ in Hausa language is a special operation launched by the Nigerian Navy in collaboration with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (now Limited) to stop oil thieves from further sabotaging the nation’s oil and gas installations.

Speaking at the launch of the operation in Onne, Rivers state, recently, the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, blamed the nation’s economic downturn on attacks on oil and gas facilities by saboteurs.

Gambo, represented by the chief of policy and plans, Suleiman Garba, said about 40 warships, 200 gunboats, five helicopters and its Special Boat Service (Special Forces) and several other units would participate in the operation.

“Operation Dakatar Da Barawo in collaboration with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) will identify where the problem (breach on pipelines) is. Secondly, we will track the oil thieves and secure the pipelines for the economic prosperity of the country.

“The NNPC is concerned by the reports in the past few months of massive theft of petroleum products purportedly from the pipeline to (illicit) vessels resulting in huge revenue losses,” Gambo had said.

 He said the Navy under his Command was fully committed to eliminating all acts of criminalities in Nigeria’s maritime environment and the Gulf of Guinea.

“We will use this operation to dominate the nation’s backwaters through aggressive and intelligence-driven patrols. The operation will be used to monitor pipelines; block identified strategic estuaries, with a focus on preventing the conveyance of stolen crude oil from inshore to sea.

“The navy will also maintain a credible presence along the coastline of areas prone to crude oil theft.” He said that navy Special Forces aided by aerial surveillance would conduct clearance operations to curb oil theft and illicit dealings in petroleum products in the country.

 Gambo said further that the newly acquired Falcon Eye system had further enhanced the Navy’s regional maritime domain awareness capability.

 “The system was used to monitor MT Queen of Peace for one month, leading to her eventual interception on March 15 with over three million litres of suspected crude oil.”


Since its launch, the operation Dakatar Da Barawo has, Blueprint Weekend gathered, made giant strides in the fight against economic sabotage in the region.  Vice Admiral Gambo said the operation has prevented the diversion of over N30 billion worth of crude oil by individuals which would have been used to support criminals.

The CNS, who gave a review of the naval operations in the last five months, revealed that over 216 illegal refining sites with about 3, 000 metal storage tanks and over 150 massive wooden boats were destroyed during the period under review.

 He also stated that oil thieves were denied over 40 million litres, which is about 270, 000 barrels of crude oil and a little below 20 million litres of illegally refined AGO.

“The operation is focused on crushing metal storage tanks constructed and located within the creeks that are used to store stolen crude oil and illegally refined AGO.

 “The activation of these sites are supported with the checkpoint management and control regime, which involves deployment of armed personnel on our boats that are stationed at strategic river entrances and extra reach within the creeks to arrest vessels, especially wooden boats and barges used to convey stolen oil,” he said.

 Gambo said the vast maritime environment of the nation of about 84, 000 nautical miles, made it necessary to deploy technology to continuously monitor all round surveillance as well as to save cost to the government.

He said the Naval facilities, have in the last four weeks, detected and arrested a number of vessels attempting to load crude oil and liquefied natural gas within the nation’s off shore terminals without proper and necessary documentation as well as approvals from relevant authorities.

Similarly, figures made available to Blueprint newspapers by the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) show that combined troops of Operations Delta Safe, Octopus Grip and Dakar Da Barawo have intercepted petroleum products worth N5, 708,259,338.00 from suspected oil thieves in the Niger Delta in the last one month alone.

A breakdown of the volume of petroleum products recovered from the suspects are 25,977.15 barrels of crude oil; 3,236,130 litres of Automotive Gas Oil; 26,575 litres of Premium Motor Spirit, and 2,000 litres of Dual Purpose Kerosene were recovered.

At a media briefing in Abuja, the Director, Directorate of Defence Media Operations (DDMO), Maj.-Gen. Musa Danmadami, said troops of Operation Delta Safe sustained the war against oil theft and illegal bunkering and other criminal activities in the region to sustain a conducive environment for economic activities to thrive in the south-south region of the country.

He said troops of Operation Delta Safe conducted operational activities in creeks, villages, communities and towns in the region.

He stated that during the operations, troops discovered and destroyed several illegal oil refining sites, tankers, cooking ovens, arms and ammunition, cash, among others.

Danmadami affirmed that the total value of products denied to oil thieves within the period under review stood at N1.3 billion.

“During the operation, troops also discovered and destroyed several illegal refining sites which include 493 dugout pits, 512 storage tanks, 413 cooking ovens and 59 wooden boats. Also, troops recovered four tankers, two speed boats, one generator, one outboard engine, 14 pumping machines, three AK-47 rifles, 25,977.15 barrels of crude oil, 3,236,130 litres of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO), 26,575 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and 2,000 litres of Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK).”

Speaking further, he said, “Troops also arrested 21 pipeline vandals while noting that all recovered items and apprehended oil thieves were handed over to the appropriate authorities for further action.

 “Cumulatively, a total value of products denied oil thieves from the period in review amounts to N1,313,020,242.00 worth of crude oil, N2,374,607,471.00 worth of AGO, N4,650,625.00 worth of PMS N15,981,000.00 worth of DPK. Consequently, a grand total of N3, 708,259,338.00 was denied to the oil thieves.”

DHQ’s reaction

Likewise, the Defence Headquarters has dismissed allegations that some military personnel and security agencies are involved in oil theft and illegal oil bunkering in the Niger Delta region.

The president, Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Comrade Festus Osifo, had alleged that heads of the Nigerian Military, the Police and other security agencies “collude to steal crude oil in the Niger Delta.”

Reacting to questions by our reporter, the Director, Defence Information, Maj.-Gen. Jimmy Akpor, said the allegations were unfounded. He said the major stakeholders in the oil and gas industry had understanding of the workings of the industry, saying it was unfair to drag the military into the activities of the criminals.

He said the armed forces and other security agencies had continued to do their best to safeguard the nation’s economic assets in the region.

 “If the military has been deployed to safeguard the pipelines and the pipelines are compromised it does not mean the military should be held accountable. It does not mean the military is directly involved in oil theft. The question is: who are the stakeholders in the production and security of the oil architecture? The oil production companies are part of the stakeholders, the soldiers are involved, the communities are involved, the government is involved and the regulators of the oil and gas sector. All these are stakeholders in ensuring that the integrity of what is produced is maintained.

“The terrain that the military operates to secure oil and gas is a very difficult one. There are so many stakeholders in the oil industry. If you single out the military and blame them for oil theft, you are only making them cannon fodders in the security of the oil and gas industry. You are making the military the weeping boys. The soldiers have done their best and the amount of crude oil recovered attest to that fact.

“Again the arrest of the giant tanker MT Heroic Idun that would have taken out over 3 million barrels of crude oil by Equatorial Guinea in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy shows that we are winning the war against oil theft. You cannot say that artisanal oil thieves are taking 700 hundred barrels of crude per day, that figure is on realistic,” he said.

Similarly, Maj.-Gen. Danmadami told our reporter that the military is doing its best to secure oil and gas pipelines in the Niger Delta.

He said, “You can see the quantity of crude oil that was seized and destroyed by the soldiers in the Niger Delta amounting to about 5 billion dollars. If you put that against subsequent ones that have been recovered overtime, there is no justification to say that our troops are involved. If you are fighting corruption, definitely corruption will fight back, that is what is happening. It is as simple as that. The Chief of the Naval Staff gave an interview last week and he was crystal clear on the issue and if anybody downgrades that interview you know where the problem is.

“The Armed forces of Nigeria is not involved in oil theft. I can assure you we are doing our best day in and day out as you heard from the commander of Operation Delta Safe.  As you are closing down one place, another one is opening the next day.  You can imagine the environmental damage in the area. Just one spark of fire as the troops are on operation there, all of them will be roasted. The troops are taking risks to ensure that they get the result we are telling you.” 


Also, a senior military officer who pleaded anonymity told this reporter that there is a significant miscalculation in determining how much Nigeria is losing in terms of oil theft as oil losses due to other factors are often lumped together as theft and these losses are then blamed on security agencies’ lack of effectiveness.

“We need to understand the differences between oil theft and oil losses. While oil theft is siphoning crude oil from vandalised pipes into barges, oil losses occur when there is known production, especially during shut-ins and force majeure as the federal government does not earn the desired revenue it should.

 “Losses also occur as a result of metering errors on the operating platforms as read. But the volume of crude oil shot-ins from non-production is often added to figures for oil theft instead of declaring them as oil losses. This should not be,” he said.

 Alluding to reports that between 200, 000 and 700, 000 barrels of crude are being stolen daily in Nigeria, the senior officer said “100,000 barrels of crude is the equivalent of 15.8 million litres of crude oil requiring a five-tonne barge to make 3,160 trips to convey to a mother vessel within a day; most of these claims are definitely outrageous and unrealistic.”

The senior officer insisted that even if there were enough barges “to do this, it is highly unlikely given the heightened presence of security forces in the creeks and estuaries as well as the subsisting operations specifically targeted at this type of criminal activity.”

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