Amgbare Ekaunkumo, Yenagoa
The Federal Governments’ Special Investigative Panel on Oil Theft/Losses, has called for deliberate conversations to drive legal reforms that would provide stiffer penalties to culpable entities involved in oil theft.
Chairman of the Panel and Interim Administrator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme PAP Maj. Gen. Barry Ndiom (retd) while speaking in Abuja at a One-Day Stakeholders Confernce on Oil Theft/Losses, said “frank discussions” must be held to enable the country “crack the code” and put an end to the “criminal enterprise” of oil theft.
The Panel Chairman regretted that the menace of oil theft has had enormous negative impact on Nigeria’s crude oil production, plunging output to a 13-year low of 800,000bpd. He reiterated that strategic consultations have been held with state governments of the Niger Delta region and other critical stakeholders to that effect.
Gen. Ndiomu thus advocated for application of modern technologies to protect oil assets, and a review of security architecture in the region with a view to stem the “sophisticated network of complicity between elements from the host communities, security agencies and industry players”.
While declaring the Conference open, Vice President Yemi Oshibajo noted that the Oil and Gas industry is facing serious threat, as crude oil theft which happens on a large scale, is sabotaging Government efforts.
Osinbajo who noted that organized oil theft does not happen without the conspiracy of critical state institutions, said the Federal Government must now take up the task of continually engaging host communities to douse their grievances.
“It is important to sit down with these local communities to engage and talk to them. So that we are able to understand what is going on and profer solutions”. We must hold people in authority to account on what is going on,” he added.
The VP further urged host communities to desist from attacking oil installations in the region, adding that continuous occurrence of crude oil theft threatens the credibility of Government.
National Security Adviser (NSA) Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd) observed that the problem of oil theft has developed to disturbing levels. “This is because the criminals have now increased the level of sophistication, considering the various methods they employ to tap primary pipelines with illegal secondary pipes to load on barges and sell to international collaborators, or to process locally for illicit domestic sale,” he said.
He expressed Government’s commitment to address the issues of oil theft with a comprehensive approach, adding that crude oil theft is arguably the biggest issue in Nigeria.
The NSA noted that so far, 83 oil tankers involved in crude oil theft have been arrested, while theft of over 3 million barrels of crude oil have been prevented, and 11 million litres of petrol and diesel recovered.
Similarly, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Slyva alluded to the monumental drop in crude oil production and loss of revenue due to wide scale theft and vandalization of oil assets.
He added that concerted efforts by Government in securing oil assets is yielding positive results, and that the tempo will be sustained to achieve the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quota.
Also present at the One-Day Conference, were all Security Service Chiefs, Traditional Rulers from the Niger Delta Region, representatives from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) and other critical stakeholders of the oil and gas industry.