The Nigerian Senate has initiated a probe into the increasing incidence of crude oil theft in the Niger Delta region, which has resulted in severe economic losses running into trillions of naira.
While lamenting the incessant and nefarious activities of the oil thieves, the Senate directed five standing committees to investigate and expose culprits. The committees saddled with the work include the committee on Petroleum Resources; upstream committe on petroleum resources downstream; the committee on gas; the committee on host communities; and the committee on Niger Delta. The committees have been given a six-week deadline to conclude their investigation.
The committees will investigate the actions of security forces, militia groups, the local populace, oil company employees, and anyone suspected of using sophisticated methods to pilfer from oil facilities within the country.
The move follows a motion sponsored by Ned Nwoko, Senator representing Delta North, and co-sponsored by Ede Omueya, Senator representing Delta Central, and Joel Thomas, Senator representing Delta South. Nwoko observed that oil theft is pervasive in the country due to a collaboration between security forces, militia groups, the local population, and employees of oil companies.
According to statistics quoted by Nwoko, Nigeria suffered a daily loss of approximately 437,000 barrels of crude oil, amounting to a value of $23 million in 2022, due to criminal activities. Between March 2023, Nigeria incurred a substantial loss of 65.7 million barrels of crude oil, valued at $83 per barrel, resulting in a staggering revenue loss of N2.3 trillion as a result of oil theft.
“Concerned that there have been accusations and counter-accusations of oil bunkering and various other crimes between the military and local militia groups. These allegations underscore the significant level of sabotage and disruption to the nation’s economic backbone”, he said.
He added the activities of oil thieves and their collaborators have hampered crude oil production, posing a substantial threat to the nation’s economy.
Senate President Godswill Akpabio expressed concern over crude oil theft in the country and assured the Senate would do everything possible to tackle the problem, including tinkering with the regulatory act if necessary.
“Even if we need to tinker with the regulatory Act, anything we can do to bring this to an end,” he said.
He added that the problem continues to worsen the environmental problem, and Nigeria, which used to be a robust oil-producing nation, has fallen from over 2 million barrels to a little over 1 million barrels, amid the growing population growth.
Contributing to the debate, Adams Oshiomohle, Senator representing Edo North, alleged that military officers are complicit in the oil theft. He urged the committees to invite service chiefs for a holistic investigative process.
“We can’t have big vessels and oil is carted away, who has been arrested? 500,000 barrels stolen per day, it is an organized theft. It is shameful that so much is stolen, and the armed forces cannot defend the tertiary, no excuse can be given for this,” he said.