Security of lives and property in any human society is very vital to the development and peace of such society. Indeed, the basic oath that all our leaders swore, has to do with the protection of human lives and properties, making the society habitable and better than it was when they assumed power.
This underscores the importance of the military and other security operatives who are saddled with the herculean task of enforcing the security of the nation.
Unfortunately, the more the security operatives do their work of securing lives and properties of persons in the nation, the more those who hate peace and security in order to satisfy their selfish motive find ways of beating security to do their harmful business.
In the Niger Delta area of the country, and some other parts where oil pipelines traverse, oil theft has almost become a daily occurrence making the nation lose very huge sums of money. The Nigerian nation loses billions of hard currency which if properly managed, would have greatly turned the fortunes of the nation for the better.
The activities of oil thieves could better be imagined when one comes face to face with the terrible environmental degradation and havoc, the human, economic, material, and health wastages and damages that arise from activities of such thieves who are basically lured into this activity by greed and the desire to be over rich overnight. It is obvious that oil theft is very bad and dangerous, so every right thinking person needs to outrightly condemn it more because of the hazard it poses and the economic wastage it causes.
But the big question that will arise as it relates to how the security operatives deal with the suspected vessels used in conveying the stolen oil is whether it is right and proper for the taskforce or the military saddled with the responsibility of stopping the oil thieves to continue to destroy the vessels and the contents stolen and hidden in the vessels?
A case in point was the alleged setting on fire of a boat suspected to be carrying petroleum product along the Opobo axis of Imo River in May, 2013, by men of the Nigerian Navy attached to Ikot Abasi Naval Base, Akwa Ibom State.
It is now common seeing the military and other security personnel destroying vessels of suspected stolen oil. In most cases, the destruction of these vessels are done by setting them ablaze and are carried out without taking into consideration the environment where the vessels are set ablaze while the criminals behind the dastardly acts are reported to be at large. There have been cases of such burning of tankers on the busy East- West road along Eleme – Onne axis. Even some have been reported in the Warri area of Delta State.
It is no longer news that so many people in the country now see the pilfering of natural wealth as a big business despite the negative consequences this unwholesome practice can cause to the economy, environment, and indeed every facet of our national life.
Some of these sharp practices range from corruption, which has eaten deep into the fabric of our nation, looting of different kinds and magnitude, abduction and kidnapping, child trafficking and trading, killings by every guise and pretence, insecurity, oil theft and illegal bunkering and so many more that commonly characterise the Nigerian nation.
The government at the different levels have been doing their best to curb these ill-practices in order to make the society better and more habitable, yet those involved in them rather than give up their unpalatable doings and practices, have been going more “digital” in their approach and in the ways they carry out their trade.
Just as the common African adage says, “a child who does not allow the mother to sleep will know no sleep”, the more the criminals devise more means and ways of carrying out their criminality, the more the law enforcement agencies get geared up in tackling them headlong.
These days, the Joint Military Task-Force (JTF) and other operatives who are saddled with responsibility of combating oil theft in the Niger-Delta area resort to the burning of vessels which they apprehend to have been used in conveying the stolen oil. As good as the efforts in apprehending these thieves may be, the question still comes, is burning of suspected vessels containing stolen oil the best option open to the military? If yes, why don’t they consider the place where these vessels are to be burnt as not to cause harm to the people and the environment.
Oruigoni is Information Officer, Rivers State Ministry of Justice, Port Harcourt.