Apochi Suleiman is a JTF Commander in the Niger Delta region, But Now Known as Commander of Bunkering in Nigeria, CBN. Before his gallantry is noted, some background about ‘illegal bunkering’ and loss of Nigerians’ common wealth is imperative. The level of poverty is frightening in Nigeria. It is now a cliché that many Nigerians live on or earn less than $2 a day. But it is not a cliché that some individuals are bent to ensure that Nigerians remain poor and the petrol-economy remain opaque and a drain on the national treasury in spite of the fact that Nigeria is one of the largest oil-producing nations in the world.
At a time when crude oil prices are on the rise again –when Nigeria should be making a kill in petro-dollars, its uniformed agents are flunking every efforts of the government to benefit from its resources. Suleiman is a recurring decimal under the circumstance.
To situate the scenario: The nation loses over $1billion monthly to activities of oil thieves in the Niger Delta region. Various experts have estimated the volume of oil theft at between 100,000 and 250,000 barrels per day or as much as 91 million barrels yearly or billions of dollars in lost revenue.
For years now, the federal government has stationed various military personnel –including the Navy, the Nigerian Army and the Air Force –otherwise known as the JTF to prevent further illegal activities –often referred to as ‘illegal bunkering’ from emasculating the oil earnings that should accrue to the government and its people.
However, those charged with the responsibility of securing the national assets in terms of oil facilities –the JTF – have been fingered in theft and conspiracy against Nigeria. It is said that some JTF members are brains behind colossal oil theft.
It is reported that officers and enlisted personnel allegedly pay large premiums for the opportunity to serve in the JTF because the huge amount of money they make from protecting or participating in ‘illegal bunkering’ is too fabulous to ignore.
This is an open secret: interested Navy officers are said to cough up to $30,000 to serve in the Niger Delta. It is little wonder that some military officers are so successful that they have bought multimillion-dollar homes in high-end neighbourhoods in Lagos. Proceeds from ‘illegal bunkering’ became high enough in the last several years to enable both JTF members and ‘militants’ to operate on the same turf.
The JTF Commander Suleman is said not to be working alone –he has a worthy lieutenant in the person of one Dagogo Gilbert. The duo is a Siamese twins that a source said: “Dagogo Gilbert is the key man that collects money for Apochi Suleman –if this man is arrested everything about him (Suleman) will be exposed. This information is very real. Suleman is the JTF commander.”
Repeated allegations have been made against this JTF Commander and certain individuals that collect money on his behalf. But the government has yet to give sufficient scrutiny to these allegations.
The government should think: without the active connivance of the JTF how can some illegal oil merchants steal Nigeria’s crude oil without resistance and sell it at the country’s expense when Nigeria should making huge profits given the increase in the price of oil.
The federal government is therefore urged to take another look at the JTF, its supposed activities bordering on patrol boats to the structure of the force and the topmost hierarchy of its establishment.
The government should take seriously the call for help by the “Concerned Citizen of Bony, Nembe, Kula and Bille Communities, Rivers State”. In recent statements published by the communities and signed by Mr Ebi George and Comrade Preye Dumbraye, they noted: “We the indigenes of Bony, Nembe, Kula and Bille communities are forced to cry out again after the publication of May 15, 2018 in the Vanguard newspaper on page 22. Since that publication the activities of oil bunkering has increased ten folds in our communities. Oil bunkering vessels come in every two days to load crude oil from Bony, Nembe, Kula and Bille under military escorts who pilot them in and out of our communities.
“We commend the efforts of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) and Commanding Officer 29 Battalion Port Harcourt for his efforts to combat oil bunkering activities. But the bad eggs in the Army and the Navy are actively involved in oil bunkering in Bony, Nembe, Kula, and Bille communities in Rivers and Bayelsa states.”
The statement further said: “We call on the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Naval Staff to direct their field officers and commanders to stop their men from collaborating with oil bunkerers and pipeline vandals in Bony and Nembe axis and Kula and Bille –both in Rivers and Bayelsa who operate in broad daylight under the escort of Army and Navy personnel from Port Harcourt to Bayelsa. The brazen manner in which vessels come in and out of Bonny and Nembe is very alarming. Kula and Bille are not left out. The ongoing battle by the GOC and Commanding Officer of 29 Battalion in Kula and Bille to combat pipeline vandals and oil bunkerers should be extended to Bony and Nembe.”
In yet another statement, they urged President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the saboteurs from ruining the efforts of his administration to fight corruption and provide succour for the masses.
“We commend President Buhari for his doggedness and resilience in spite of all the distraction by detractors and enemies of progress. We want to draw the attention of Mr President to the activities of oil thieves in the Niger Delta, especially in Rivers and Bayelsa states. We have raised the alarm on the increased activities of oil thieves (crude oil theft) and illegal refinery in Bony, Nembe, Kula, and Bille communities in Rivers and Bayelsa in two separate publications in the Vanguard newspaper of May 15 and 24, 2018 which were swept under the carpet.
“Mr President, it is worrisome that the central command of the Navy and Army charged with the responsibility of ensuring that these illegal activities do not take place in the Niger Delta region are directly collaborating with oil thieves and illegal refineries in Rivers and Bayelsa to sabotage the Nigerian economy. How best can we describe the situation where naval and army personnel escort barges of oil bunkers to the open sea for business with foreign nationals waiting with huge ships to buy the stolen products? We urge Mr President to put a halt to this and direct all service chiefs –the Navy, Army and Air Force to bring the culprits to book. Rivers and Bayelsa states are the gateway of illegal oil theft in Nigeria,” the group said.