• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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How FG’s reluctance to name and shame oil, solid minerals thieves fuels corruption

Navy arrests 10 oil thieves with over 100 kegs

For too long, the Federal Government of Nigeria has demonstrated reluctance to name and shame those who steal crude oil and illegally mine solid minerals in the country.

This reluctance or lack of political will has continued to fuel corruption in the land.

Year after year, the government has continued to say, in a manner that shows its helplessness, that some unnamed powerful individuals have been responsible for economic sabotage through massive stealing of crude oil and illegal mining of solid minerals across the country.

Often times, Nigerians hear those in government say that if they should make public the names of certain individuals that perpetrate one fraud or the other, that the nation will boil.

Such statements, Nigerians believe, have the capacity to embolden such “powerful individuals” to continue in their criminality.

Today, while the country is troubled on every side, government delights in playing politics. The country is wreathing in pain over the continued activities of these individuals.

It is alleged that these individuals are found in government circles; they are also in the private sector and in religious circles.

But their activities are not only causing the country revenue losses, but also human losses.

The government has preferred to play the ostrich as these enemies of state move from crude oil theft to illegal solid minerals mining, to sponsorship of banditry and kidnapping across the country.

The probing question on the lips of many citizens is, “Who are these unnamed powerful Nigerians behind the assorted crimes?

Many informed individuals have often pointed fingers at government officials and their collaborators for the stealing going on in the Niger Delta. But no particular person has been named as being part of this fraud, yet the beat goes on.

Read also: Nigeria’s solid minerals to become next crude oil — Aigbogun

Those who make such allegations point out that the real crude oil thieving is not done with jerry cans but with barges which are not hidden. They have always explained that there is no way a badge could come into the Nigeria’s territorial waters without the knowledge of the Nigerian Navy that police the space.

Nigeria’s crude oil is stolen in large quantities that affect revenues as oil is the major revenue earner for the country.

For many years, Joint Task Forces (JTF) in the Niger Delta have impounded vessels and badges involved in oil theft in the region, but the brains behind such thieving are never made public even when caught.

Although security sources have repeatedly said that the real looting of Nigeria’s crude oil and its by-products is neither through illegal bunkering, refining nor pipeline vandalism, but via highly placed government officials-enabled undocumented shipments of large-scale hydro-carbon products to Europe and the Americas, they have been unable to tell who the thieves are.

These thieves have remained unmanned despite threats by successive administrations to name and shame these economic saboteurs.

It is often said that when any government shies away from naming and shaming those disrupting real governance and putting a wedge on development, it simply means that that government may be sponsoring the sabotage against itself.

Since 2015, Nigerians have been hearing about massive crude oil theft which has caused the country huge revenue losses.

FG seek strengthened collaboration with traditional rulers to curb oil theft

It came to a point in the 2nd term of the Muhammadu Buhari administration that the high level of thieving plummeted the daily production quota of Nigeria. Output hovered around 1.59 million bpd and sometimes even lower.

In June last year, shortly after President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was inaugurated, a former leader of the Niger Delta agitators, Asari Dokubo, had accused the Nigerian military of being behind 99 percent of the oil theft in the country.

He made the allegation when he visited the President at the Presidential Villa.

Dokubo added that there were powerful members of the cabal operating from Abuja.

The former militant leader argued that ordinary Niger Delta citizens who are often blamed for oil theft are not responsible, as they do not have the wherewithal to perform such sophisticated act of stealing.

According to him, the manner in which the oil thieves have gone about their criminal activities has stripped the people of the Niger Delta of their livelihood, and that it is a crime against humanity. Since he made the allegation, there has been no name attached to it.

By the same token, Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited, TSSNL, a private security company, engaged by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPCL), has been on a slanging match with the Nigerian Navy over who is innocent or otherwise in the matter of aiding and abetting crude oil theft.

In December last year, the Minister of Solid Mineral, Dele Alake, blamed unnamed ‘Powerful Nigerians’ for the illegal mining activities and acts of terrorism going on in different parts of the country.

Alake made the allegation when he led a delegation of top officials of the ministry to defend the 2024, budget estimates before the House Committee on Solid Minerals at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja.

He added that the banditry ongoing in the land may have a foreign component but noted that the major sponsors are Nigerians yet to be identified.

“Nigerians are those powerful people behind them (illegal miners); we are identifying them with both kinetic and non-kinetic means. The insecurity in the mining areas is sponsored by illegal miners and these are powerful individuals in the society who are Nigerians,” he said.

Read also: Anambra declares war on illegal mining

In 2022, there were reports that some unnamed individuals were using aircraft to ferry away mined gold and other solid minerals from Zamfara and Niger States. Up till this moment, nobody was named as being behind the illegal mining.

The other day, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Olanipekun Olukayode said that the anti-graft agency uncovered how a religious sect in Nigeria is laundering money for terrorists.

He also disclosed that another religious body was found to be protecting a money launderer after some money suspected to have been laundered was traced to the organisation’s bank account.

He noted that religious organisations, institutions, sects, and bodies have been found culpable of money laundering.

Olukayode said: “A religious sect in this country had been found to be laundering money for terrorists.”

He said that the religious organisation quickly obtained a restraining order to prevent the EFCC from probing its leaders.

“We were able to trace some laundered money to a religious organisation, and when we approached the religious organisation about it and we were carrying out our investigation, we got a restraining order stopping us from carrying out our investigation,” he said.

But the EFCC boss never mentioned the name of the religious body or sect to enable Nigerians know who they are and be wary of them.

For many years now, Nigeria, has been witnessing abduction, terrorism and banditry across the country.

Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones are home to terrorist groups like Boko-Haram, nomadic herdsmen, One- Million Boys and others. They have claimed the lives of countless people, old and young.

When the kidnap of the 276 Chibok girls happened in 2014 by the Boko Haram insurgents, Nigerians thought they had seen the worst.

Today, nomadic herdsmen are even doing worse. They invade communities and slaughter everyone and set ablaze all the buildings. Despite the threats by the Federal Government to come heavily on the perpetrators, they have continued in their orgy of violence with the government looking helpless.

An observer who spoke to BusinessDaySunday on condition of anonymity, said: “These elements have the effrontery to write the Federal Government. I read a threat letter recently written by a Fulani group to the Federal Government, warning that if it failed to release their leader, who they said was held in Nasarawa or somewhere else, they would make the country ungovernable. There was a similar letter they wrote to, was it the Plateau or Benue State governor, saying that they helped him to win the election but that he had stepped back on the agreement. They pointedly told him that the Federal Government cannot help him. Is it not a shame that a group is threatening a Federal Government and nothing is happening to them? Are you telling me that the Federal Government does not have the power to flush out those behind the insecurity in the country? They are not ghost.”

A political analyst, recently wrote: “Some politicians know the terrorists: they sponsor and use them for their political gains. They not only provide them with rifles but supply them first-hand information about pending military operations. They need to be apprehended and made to face the wrath of the law. The incessant abductions negatively affect Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The more these terrorists destroy farmlands, kill or abduct farmers, the more poverty will escalate in the country.”