A dramatic confrontation is unfolding between Nigerian Naval authorities and a House of Representatives committee investigating oil bunkering, with the lawmakers threatening to order the arrest of the nation’s naval chief if he continued to snub the committee.
The navy has come under scathing criticisms from the petroleum upstream committee since the investigation opened on Tuesday.
The lawmakers blame the navy for not providing adequate security and coastal patrol through where stolen oil are siphoned across daily with attendant loss for the nation nearing N1 trillion annually, according to industry experts.
Shell Nigeria, said to lose the largest quantity of oil to the theft, told the committee on Tuesday 150,000 barrels of its crude are stolen from the pipelines, moved through barges to waiting ships (many foreign) offshore.
Nigeria Agip Oil Company said it loses about one million barrels monthly.
The multinationals say the oil cartels, operated like illicit drug trade, should have been minimized if security patrols in the waterways had been heightened.
The naval authorities have announced the arrest of several illegal oil-laden ships in the past.
But with many of the vessels later reported to have escaped, the lawmakers have pointed at the possible collusion between government officials, security agents and the illegal oil traders.
The committee, headed by Ajibola Muraina, has insisted on receiving presentation on the navy’s role in the matter only from the Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Ola Saad Ibrahim; but Mr. Ibrahim has snubbed the sitting since the investigation opened Tuesday.
The committee has also summoned the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Olusheyi Petinrin.
The naval boss has sent in representatives on Tuesday and Wednesday, and on each day, the committee dismissed the personnel.
On Wednesday, the naval officers were ordered out of the hearing hall after explaining their bosses, Mr. Petinrin and Mr. Ibrahim, were attending the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
The committee disallowed the representatives from making presentations insisting the military chiefs must appear in their persons, and on Wednesday, it warned an arrest may be issued.
“We are not ready to deviate from our rules and we are not going to allow any junior officer to make the presentation because we don’t want a situation where statements would be misinterpreted by the superior officers,” said committee chairman, Mr. Muraina.
“Let no one take us for granted, things are not working in this country because we deliberately make our institutions very weak because we don’t want them to be strong.
“We are here to dance to the tune of these sad happenings and under the leadership of this House; we are prepared to protect our independence and powers.
“We would not hesitate to apply the law, we have the power to issue warrant of arrest, depending on what we want, we are not bound to follow that but I warn again that whoever is invited to this public hearing should appear.
“Again, by tomorrow, if the CDS and the CNS are not here, I will not hesitate to take appropriate measure as this committee deems proper.
“They are given till tomorrow (Thursday) to appear unfailingly; else we will show that we have some power we can exercise.