• Wednesday, June 12, 2024
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FG talks tough on crude oil theft as economy bleeds

The sea: What a world of freedom?

The Federal Government says it will no longer condone any form of criminality on the nation’s oil and gas facilities and installations, warning that crude oil thieves, pipeline vandals and illegal refiners have their days numbered.

The minister of state for petroleum resources, Timipre Sylva stressed this during an on-the-spot assessment of some pipelines damaged by pipeline vandals and other criminals in some areas and communities of Rivers State on Wednesday.

Sylva, who was in the company of the chief of defence staff, Lucky lrabor; chief executive of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC); Gbenga Komolafe and the GMD of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company limited, Mele Kyari said that apart from causing huge losses to the economy, the criminals were also destroying livelihoods of locals and the environment.

According to him, “the community must be involved and the security arm must be involved and the third arm which is the operating public must also be involved.

“I want to let everybody know that these criminals have their days numbered because the country has lost so much from their activities,” he added.

The tour came at a time Nigeria’s oil production has stagnated around 1.4mbpd, in almost one year, as Africa’s largest economy fails to meet its 1.8 million barrels per day quota set by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

While authorities blame the situation on pipeline vandalism, oil theft is rife and, according to Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, this is “unprecedented.”

“The Monetary Policy Committee noted, with grave concern, the unprecedented rate of oil theft recorded in recent time, and its debilitating impact on government revenue and accretion to reserves,” Emefiele had said last Monday in Abuja after the committee’s meeting.

In his remarks, the chief executive officer, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Ghenga Komolafe described the acts of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism as a national disaster.

“For those who want to do legitimate business, there are government regulations on how that is done, but what we’ve seen here are criminals, and their activities will no longer be tolerated.”

Read also: 51 companies owe FG N1.32 trillion, $2bn lost to crude oil theft in 1 year – NEITI

On his part, the CEO of NNPC, Mele Kyari explained that the scale of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism seen in the community was beyond explanation, adding that all hands must be on deck to contain the spate of crude oil losses in the country.

He added that through a collaborative effort of the government security agencies, host communities and oil companies operating in the area and with the deployment of the right technology, the menace would be contained.

The chief of defence staff, Lucky lrahor noted that in carrying out the president’s directives to contain losses from these criminalities, the military will deploy a different strategy and a new drive by pursuing not only the criminals but also their sponsors.

“The destruction we’ve seen is beyond explanation. We are not only zeroing in on the criminals, but also on those who are supporting them,” he said.

However, Nigerians have expressed displeasure over the government’s inability to curb crude oil theft, as the struggling economy bleeds from the inability to meet OPEC quota, coupled with huge subsidy which is denying the country the gains of the rallying oil prices.

Reacting to the news, a Twitter user, Ikenna Ochei through his handle @ikoreal2005, said: “With the inordinate number of Generals Nigeria boasts of, why have the problems of oil theft, pipeline vandalism and petroleum products smuggling across the border continued with such impunity? It is a damning indictment of Nigeria’s security systems and leadership across the spectrum.

“This is not the first time this ultimatum has been given in the current dispensation. But because the heaviest sanctions aren’t meted out on perpetrators and facilitators of this seditious act, it has continued to fester. Like other OPEC countries have long done, Nigeria must end this.