Barring any last-minute change in plans, the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) appears set to reclaim the Tarkwa-Bay Island, which it said had been occupied by illegal people for many years.
An indication to this effect was the recent unscheduled visit to the island by the management team of the NPA, led by its Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman.
Usman used the occasion of the visit to assure stakeholders that the management would not relent in its efforts at ensuring optimal utilization of the organization’s facilities at all locations with a view to generating greater dividends for the country through the seaports.
The NPA boss embarked on the inspection of the vast facilities of the organization at Tarkwa Bay soon after officers of the Nigerian Navy dislodged inhabitants of the island, who were accused of siphoning petroleum products from deliberately ruptured pipelines belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The vandals, a good number of them the Navy said were foreign nationals, allegedly dug illegal oil wells from where they were pumping petroleum products into ships at sea.
During the visit aimed at kick-starting moves to commence operations, the NPA Chief Executive identified the possibility of green field development and foreign direct investments at the location, especially through the window of public private partnership (PPP) across board.
She postulated that the NPA management would not hesitate in rehabilitating the Lagos Light House at Tarkwa Bay in order to prioritize the possibility of deploying an A.I.S (Automatic Identification System) at the location. This, she said, would enhance smooth navigation to approaches to Lagos ports by vessels.
Usman was also of the view that the revitalization of Tarkwa Bay and optimal use of the facilities there would create more employment opportunities, thereby reducing inflationary rate. She stated that this would stimulate economic growth in the country.
The NPA MD stated that the Executive Management of the organization was dialoguing with stakeholders with the view to ensuring that further encumbrances on the facility were resolved forthwith. In this vein, she said, there would be mutual understanding and a better enabling environment for businesses to thrive at the location.
A recent investigation by officers of the Nigerian Navy revealed that suspected pipeline vandals may have relocated their operational base from Arepo in Ogun State to settle at Tarkwa Bay.
A pointer to this fact is the series of recovery of many thousands of 25-litre plastic jerry cans containing petroleum products allegedly stolen from pipelines belonging to the NNPC, which runs from Atlas Cove, Apapa to Ejigbo and to Mosimi depots in Lagos and Ogun states.
On different occasions, Naval operatives from the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT had carried out raids of the area during which many thousands of plastic jerry cans were recovered.
Investigation by the Navy revealed that the jerry cans were conveyed to the riverine community by suspected vandals, who were mainly foreign nationals
The activities of the vandals prompted the authority in charge of the Western Naval Command to deploy drones to monitor pipelines in the area.
About a month ago, the naval authority launched Operation KURONBE, a Yoruba word for ‘Leave There’. The operation unearthed a massive scale of pipeline vandalism at Atlas Cove in Lagos, spanning 72 kilometres to the Mosimi depot in Ogun State.
The vandals had been previously deterred from Arepo in Ogun State by the Operation AWATSE Joint Taskforce (JTF).
The need to curb pipeline vandalism on all fronts gave birth to Operation KURONBE and, in one night, the task force seized 33,000 jerry cans of 25 litres, which, at pump price, was put at N 108,750,000 for the entire 3,625 litres.
During the operation at Atlas Cove and Tarkwa Bay, the task force destroyed illegal structures on the pipeline’s right of way, which were constructed by the vandals to enable them easily access the manholes.
Two hundred structures, including 12 in Old Akinbo, five in Aditu, 17 in Phase Two, 22 in Ikate, five in Upstairs, three in Virginland, three in White House, and over 62 in Akaraba, had been destroyed.
It was gathered that prior to digging the manholes, the vandals had first tampered with one of the pipelines belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
The Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, who led the operation, lamented that the NNPC had been breached and the nation was suffering from huge losses of petroleum products.
Daji said, “These losses run into billions of naira. Hence, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Gabriel Abayomi Olonisakin, directed Operation AWATSE (of which Operation KURONBE is a spin-off), an internal security operation covering Lagos and parts of Ogun states, to specifically combat the scourge of pipeline vandalism and oil theft within these states, as well as other criminal activities like kidnapping and cultism.
“We have been on this for the past one week and we are here for an on-the-spot assessment with the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 81 Division, Major General Olu Irefin, and the Air Officer Commanding (AOC), Logistics Command, Air Vice Marshal (AVM) AbdulGaniyu Olabisi, so that we can brief the CDS on what we have seen so far.”
Daji said the Operation AWATSE team had recovered over 300,000 empty jerry cans and over 30,000 others filled with premium motor spirit (PMS).
He added that the operation would be extended to Mosimi.
“Pipelines must be sanitised, loopholes must be blocked and all those involved in this illegal activity will be brought to book. The resolve of the Federal Government of Nigeria, led by Muhammadu Buhari, to ensure that we have full control of every inch of the country’s territory is our duty to uphold.
“There is a new resolve, and that has been backed up by the CDS’ order to ensure that every illegal structure and any settlement causing encumbrances and aiding sabotage of fuel distribution pipelines on the critical NNPC Systems 2B is removed.
“We are undaunted and will go all out to ensure that the political will and backing we have received are actualised on the ground. Whoever are responsible or supporting the vandals have no hiding place. This operation is out to ensure that. The masquerade has been unmasked,“ Daji said.