THE demise of Captain Romeo Itima, the late Managing Director of Global West Specialist Vessels Limited after an attack from suspected pirates has no way effected the operations of the firm. In this interview with Sweetcrude’s Godwin Oritse, the new Managing Director Mr. Winfred Itima, the immediate elder brother of the late Romeo said that the project to save Nigeria from the hands of oil thieves is beginning to yield results. Excerpts:
Can we meet you?
My names are Winfred Itima, the new Managing Director of Global West.
What is your background ?
I am a marine Captain and I have been working in the marine industry in the last 30 years and I just returned from the United States in November, 2011, to work with Global West following the passage of our late Managing Director which led to my being appointed as the new Managing Director.
What is your assessment of the Maritime domain with regards to security of the nation’s coastal waters and the activities of the oil and gas exploration?
If you live outside this country, you will definitely know that there is a problem in Nigeria, if you are within the country and you have never travelled outside, you will not know that we have a big problem. But there is a big problem that need to be looked into, some of which are, sea pirates, illegal bunkering including oil theft and these are major problems that are impacting the nation’s economy negatively.
What was the security situation before and after Global West took charge of security of the coastal waters?
The security situation was terrible, the level of illegal bunkering was high, every day we heard of sea pirates, but since Global came in, the situation is changing and the criminals have slowed down and we pray that with time everything will become normal again.
There was a statement credited to the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) that oil theft has reduced by as much as 70%, will agree to this?
To tell the truth, in some parts of Nigeria, oil theft is zero, in some parts we still have the problem of oil theft going on, and I think NIMASA and Global West and the security agencies are fighting tooth and nail to stop them.
What is your assessment of oil theft with regards to the economy?
Oil theft does not only affect the economy, oil theft also causes environmental problems. If you go to a place like Escravos, the oil cannot be cleaned from the waters in the next 100 years . This is the most important problem I think we have on our hands right now because it leads to both health and economic problems. I think if we can start to address it right now, the future of Nigeria will be better for it.
There is this insinuation that the oil thieves are the Niger Deltans, how will you react to this?
The boys in the Niger Delta are just the errand boys, they are the small boys in the business, they cannot steal oil without the full support of the big boys who bank roll these illegal businesses.
The oil that is stolen from Nigeria is taken to other countries, nobody in the Niger Delta can do that, there are big men behind these boys and it is these big men we are trying to unravel. So we have to start from the top, they keep talking about the small boys .If you are not buying my product will I keep giving the same product?That is our major problem.
What is Global West and what is its structure?
Global West is a contractor to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), we supply plat forms, surveillance equipment and we give them information we gather from our operations. If and when we board a vessel, and we find any problem on board that vessel, we relate our findings to NIMASA, who takes from there.
We do not carry arms, NIMASA has its own maritime guard Command that they use to effect any arrest. Sometimes we hear people say that Global West arrest people, we do not arrest people, we are just platforms providers to NIMASA.
What kind of person would you say Captain Itima was?
I think he was my best friend and blood brother and I think he also wanted to ensure that Nigeria become one of the most reputable country in world.
How do you intend to sustain Captain Romeo Itima’s legacies?
With the kind of people currently working with us in Global West, we will progress and I think whatever Romeo set out to do will be achieved.