Governer Seriake Dickson of the Bayelsa State in South Nigeria recently spoke to media about the threat of oil theft in the Niger Delta. He said that many militant groups use oil theft to finance their violent campaigns in the region.
Dikson spoke of his concern for the rising complexity of these organizations that engage in oil theft and re-sale, or “bunkering” as it is called in Nigeria. These same gangs often engage in piracy when they decided to steal oil on the open water, as opposed to from a pipeline in the Delta.
“What is going on is more of a threat to national security than even the loss of revenue that everybody is shouting about,” Governor Dickson said.
“It is from there they have easy funds to recruit followers; it is from these activities of crude oil theft and illegal refining that people are able to sustain such large numbers of youths and put them into various cult groups.
He continued, “what is going on has a direct effect on the proliferation of small and light weapons because they need an army of youths to protect their territories, to be able to withstand the onslaught of legitimate security personnel.”
Oil bunkering and the sabotage of pipelines is becoming a huge problem in Nigeria. As it continues to increase, the economic losses for the government do as well. Many oil producing companies in the region have threatened to shut down, or have already done so.
The government continues to search for a solution, as it begins to be clear that the vast amounts of money poured into amnesty programs for militants just aren’t working.
Dickson warned these cult members, who have refused reasonable compensation for giving up their violent and thieving ways, that they would be brought to justice:
“For those who have defied the Cultism Proscription law, in spite of the olive branch we have put forward and arrangement for their renunciation and eventual integration, but still want to go ahead with cult activities, I am sounding a clear note of warning that this government will not succumb to blackmail or propaganda.”
He called upon the national security apparatus, the Nigerian Navy in particular, to instill zero-tolerance policies towards violent pirates and oil thieves.
Considering the maritime nature of the problem, the solution most likely does involve heavy participation from the navy. By increasing information sharing and maritime domain awareness, Nigeria can monitor oil harvesting activity and prevent pirate attacks before they happen.