HRM, King Bubaraye Dakolo, Ibenanaowei of Ekpetiama Kingdom and chairman, Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council, an alumnus of the Nigerian Defence Academy and United Kingdom-trained security expert in this interview bared his mind on the Okuama tragic incident, crude oil theft in the Niger Delta and failed institutions fuelling insecurity in the region. Excerpts.

Okuama debacle

First and foremost, Nigerians are not being told the truth about what happened between Okuama and Okoloba which is said to be over land. You know back here in the Niger Delta, a mere boundary dispute will not lead to soldiers coming in. What has happened is what is called oil-induced violence. And if you look very well you will see that there are some oil wells around there, oil pipelines, oil routes, so that is what has happened. And this bit has to be told. Once you know that it is oil-induced violence then you know what the real ticks are.

So, lets’ look at it from the military end, unfortunately about 17 gallant military officers were killed and some guns are taken away by some persons. If you want to ask what has been going on behind the scenes? For the Joint Military Task Force, JTF, has been here for more than two decades. The JTF is supposed to come out against kidnapping, pipeline vandalism, oil theft and you will agree with me that all these have not been successfully dealt with. If you go to Port Harcourt prison, Yenagoa prison, Kirikiri prison or Kogi Prison, you won’t find any oil thief there, which means after more than two decades of national operation to stamp out crude oil theft it has not been a success story. As a matter of fact, early last year the production came down so low but right now they are trying to raise it up.

Oil thieves

The real oil thieves must be properly defined again. A real thief is someone who does not sleep in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, particularly whether in the creek or swamp. And if they have to they will come with law enforcement of all type, soldiers and police so that their lives will be secured. An oil thief more often than not will have a private jet, yachts, and will have properties in Banana Island and in choice places like Abuja, England, America and other parts of Europe. That is a typical oil thief. Unfortunately, Nigeria has mis-defined an oil thief. Everyone else who is entangled in oil pipeline vandalism and kpofire related are victims of oil thievery. The real oil thief steals the oil, of course, with vessels and the rest of them. What happened is there isn’t the right atmosphere for the education of the youths, no proper job opportunity or living opportunity and of course with the pollution and everything and even alternative means of livelihood for the people of the Niger Delta are not there anyone.

So, they become hands to be used in the business of the actual oil thievery. There is nobody in any kingdom or in the kingdoms in Bayelsa State and environs that has ocean going vessels that is used in stealing oil. About 95,000 barrels in one ship early this year and also last year about the same quantity stolen. The real stealing is going on. And usually, it is in connivance with the international oil and gas industry operators.

Attacks on military personnel

Now you want to ask me, ordinarily, is there a Nigerian that ever seizes and kills military personnel? The answer is no. So, what will provoke somebody or embolden somebody to that point where he sees the military as a rival in a cut throat illegality? That question has to be asked; I won’t answer that but let it be asked.
The other one is, is anyone other than law enforcement supposed to be in possession of assault weapons of any type? Do you know of any weapons producing factory in Bayelsa State, Delta, and Rivers or anywhere in the Niger Delta? Even in Nigeria, the Nigerian military imports weapons from America, Israel to mentioned a few, so what are weapons doing in the hands of civilians and how do they come in?


Failed institutions

So, if they are in their possession it means they were smuggled in. you have all the Customs executives in Tincan Island, nobody talked about them. So they allowed these weapons to come in without been sanctioned. No Nigerian is talking about them. The press is not even talking about them. That is where to start because; it is because these young people are having these weapons. And about weapons handling, it is the first to pull the trigger. If I shoot you first and it touches your heart or any vital organ good bye, it is not because I went to the NDA. So, Nigerians must look at it. Now if the weapons get to civilians’ custody, it means that the Customs and Excise has failed woefully and I can tell you for free that the Customs is more interested in what you know. Recently, some are being probed for stealing so much from bribes, that is how these weapons come into the country.

So, if we want to prevent this kind of things from happening, then they also have to pay attention to Customs. But beyond the Customs, if the weapons come in then the Nigeria Police is supposed to find them somehow and dispossess the civilians of these weapons. This can be done either with the military because it is an illegality for a civilian to have an unlicensed weapon and the authorities that give license is the police. So, if someone is in possession of illegal weapon it is the duty of the police to ensure that they comb that town and ensure nobody is having unlicensed weapon. The next one is will someone who is ordinarily normal take a gun and shoot at a military person, which ordinarily is supposed to be suicidal? The answer again is no. something must be wrong with him. He may be high on one substance or the other. If he is high on one substance or the other, assuming the substance is cocaine is there a cocaine factory in Bayelsa State. Even if it is tramadol, is tramadol not a banned substance? How did it come in? Again Customs and Excise and then of course, National Drug and Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, should be blamed. So, when institutions of Federal Government fail woefully you have this kind of problem. Most of these things are supposed to ordinarily be handled by the police.


If you read the book “Riddle of the Oil Thief” chapter 22 titled ‘Militarization’, the whole story is there. What happened in Okuama is predicted there, it is as if we are telling the Okuama story. This particular outcome is predicted in that book verbatim. It happened because some young people around see the military that has come as a rival group. In that book it is clear that the Nigeria police was emasculated in 1967 during the civil war and they have remained emasculated. The simple phrase to use is that the Niger Delta is militarised and as a matter of fact, the Nigerian nation is militarised with close to a dozen coup over the years and civil war, and because the exploitation of oil requires that type of brute force with a completely compromised regulator.

Brute force is what is being used instead of developing the Niger Delta and being fair to the region. So, in every oil installation in this country there are military persons and there is law enforcement. Most of those people who are making comments on what have just happened have never quite been to the Niger Delta. Be they television analysts and university professors, they should come to the Niger Delta and whether the squalor in which we live is where we should live. So, if the police were not emasculated, if the Niger Delta were not militarised, if the country were not militarised we won’t be in this mess.

So, in a militarised environment where agencies are not living up to their expectations, there are lots of loopholes. In fact, the Niger Delta has to be demilitarized but before you demilitarized the region, the police has to be up and doing. Again, if the JTF is doing what they call internal security, should internal security be forever? The answer is no, but it’s been done for twenty something years. As matter of fact, the military has been overstretched.

Difficulties in disarmament

If we must move forward then of course like I said before the environment has to be disarmed. The guns have to be retrieved and the fear is retrieving the one from community A and leaving the one from community B. Or you retrieve the one from ethnic group A and leave the one from ethnic group B. Once people fear, that is what will happen. They will not bring their guns so disarmament has been difficult. But it is so bad because there is no state police. In terms of curbing violence it is essentially in the hands of the federal institutions.

Maybe we should ask the police, how many policemen are there in Nigeria. I can tell you that it is about 500,000, less than a million police. Why is the police not recruiting enough men and you know very well that in most cases even the federal police, it is the state that will buy them cars, and everything. So they are not well equipped. The personnel are not enough for the job, so you have these cases. They should recruit more personnel and it must be done honestly so that every state has fair presence.

How do we avert another Okuama type of incident?

The warring communities should understand that they are fighting over crumbs. Their communities are all parts of someone else personal business concern, the communities and kingdoms are either OML something or the other which is a big shame though. But that is what it is and so they must know. And like I said, the Federal Government has to be professional; the military also has to be professional. The Federal Government has to be honest. So, I will advise that President Tinubu now that he is in charge he must properly understand what the issues are and consciously work assiduously towards that outcome.

Kinetic alone can’t solve the problem; they will need those who have the expertise to properly advice. Before President Tinubu there already weapons in the Niger Delta and so what is the direction towards ensuring that these weapons are not there. What is the way forward in terms of enlightenment of the people of the Niger Delta? What is the action plan towards ensuring that the Niger Delta is developed? What is the action plan towards assuring and reassuring that you can have a better lease of life, better education? If you ask me, would you want to come as low as what has just happened? The answer is no. and the difference is just because you have a source of livelihood and the light of education.

So, this has to be done. The underdevelopment of the Niger Delta is too sickening for you not to expect this type of stories now and then. So something deliberate has to be done. Above all I will advice Nigerians to go and read “Riddle of the Oil Thief” and they do they will understand this issue much better. Rather than the way it is been portrayed. As much as possible the military should ensure that no young person, child no woman that is not directly involved is victim of their effort towards arresting the perpetrators.

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