BY GABRIEL OKECHUKWU, PORT HARCOURT
Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS, Pathfinder has deactivated one hundred and forty five Illegal refineries, confiscated several wooden boats, barges and vessels used for oil theft.
The Commander, NNS Pathfinder, Commodore Abdulahi Ahmed who made the revelation while briefing House of Representatives Committee on NAVY during their over sight function at the base in Port Harcourt Rivers State, noted also that over nine million litres of petroleum products were seized along the line.
The delegation of House of Representatives Committee on Navy, who were on tour of over sight function at Naval posts within Eastern Naval Command, were received along Onne Axis of East West Road by a team led by the Commander Nigerian Navy Ship NNS, Pathfinder, Commodore Abdulahi Ahmed.
Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder is saddled with the responsibility of maintaining Maritime Security within its Area of Operations which harbors Several Federal government critical infrastructure, especially in the oil sector, covering over three thousand adjoining Rivers and creeks.
Briefing the delegation of the operations of the base in a slide presentation, the Commander NNS Pathfinder, Commodore Ahmed identified the Area of Operation as being prone to maritime crimes such as, pipeline Vandalism, Illegal oil bunkering, kidnapping, sea robbery among others.
Despite the challenge posed by such unlawful activities, the Commander expressed happiness that with intelligence and proactive measures, several bunkering were identified and deactivated and much equipment used for oil theft confiscated.
“NNS PATHFINDER is charged with the responsibility of maintaining maritime presence within her AOO. In this regard, the Base maintains Maritime Guard Posts from the Naval Security Station 022 in Cawthorne Channel”
“The Base also coordinates with FOB BONNY for patrols along entrances to Bonny and Andoni Rivers where vessels are interrogated and searched when necessary”
“Due to the absence of boats with good sea keeping qualities which limit patrols to the creeks and backwaters, the Base has continued to rely on OCEA Boats from the Forward Operating Base BONNY for the sustenance of seaward patrols”
While observing with displeasure a major setback of reactivation of illegal refining sites, the Naval Commodore said that the adoption of Swamp Buggy technique was instrumental in dismantling a lot of illegal sites at Cawthorne Channel.
He stated that areas notorious for illegal bunkering activities in Rivers State include but not limited to Bolo, Bodo, Abonema, Bille and Ke.
“Additionally, the Base partners with Private Maritime Logistics and Security Company Vessels for the protection of offshore national strategic installations.”
“Information received from these vessels is used to update the Recognized Maritime Picture in the Base Intelligence Cell.”
According to Commodore Ahmed, whose slide presentation was handled by Commander Umar Sidi, NNS Pathfinder was able to neutralize such criminal activities by engaging in Anti-illegal Bunkering operations, Counter Piracy Operations, constant maritime patrol, Internal Security duties to mention but a few.
He however, told the Committee members that the challenges hindering smooth operations at the base were that of insufficient platforms, inadequate man Power, and lack of combat protective Gears as well as Night vision Goggles.
“Currently, the Base deploys personnel to about 19 of such locations. In the recent past, the Base had deployed IS platoons for the enforcement of Rivers State Government curfew and lockdown.”
“Considering the level of risk personnel were exposed to when carrying out these duties, the Base had distributed 70 helmets and 117 ballistic vests to various locations. This acquisition was undertaken with consent the consent of AAs with a view of addressing immediate shortfall and operational exigencies.”
The Chairman of House Committee on Navy, Mr. Yusuf Gagdi who lauded NNS pathfinder for the successes recorded during his remarks, pledged that the House will liaise with Naval hierarchy to fashion out ways to increase funding for Nigerian Navy.
“The House of Representatives has passed a bill on Maritime Security Trust Fund, to generate money based on the revenue of the maritime activities and see how some of those requirements in terms of acquisition of platforms will be sustained.”
“Again, we have seen and heard some challenges faced by NNS Pathfinder,
we will continue to liaise with your strategic commanders under the leadership of the CNS, Vice Admiral AZ. Gambo to make sure that all the concerns raised by you are addressed by the House of Representatives.”
The Chairman House of Reps Committee on Navy said that the infrastructural development by NNS pathfinder was gratifying.
“Based on what we have seen, because we went around pathfinder before this briefing, in the area of implementation of projects by Pathfinder and supervisory roles by contractors, you have done well by ensuring that contractors stick to their bills of quantity, what they were asked to do.”
High point of the visit was facility tour of some project sites at the base.