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Security experts have said that Nigeria’s crude oil theft would become a thing of the past when the government stamp out official complicity and bunkering, ensure transparency and accountability.
The security experts spoke during Channels Forum, a special programme to celebrate Nigeria’s 62nd Anniversary Day Celebration.
They include former Director, Army Peace Keeping, Maj-Gen Anthony Atolagbe; Security Management and Intelligence Expert, Kabiru Adamu; and Security Risk Consultant, Tanwa Ashiru.
Adamu opined that security agencies tasked with the onus of protecting Nigeria’s maritime border must be held responsible for the grand larceny of Nigeria’s resources.
“We need to hold the security department in that region that has the responsibility accountable,” he said referring to the southern part of Nigeria where crude oil theft has become ubiquitous in the creeks dotting the region, especially in the oil-rich Niger-Delta area in the South-South geopolitical zone.
“It is unfathomable for me to wake up and see that we have given that responsibility to a private individual,” Adamu said, condemning a pipeline protection contract award by the Federal Government to a company that a former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta, Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo, has interest in.
Continuing, Adamu said, “This matter is of such significance to our national existence, to our economy and yet we are allowing it continue. Frankly, it is ridiculous, the quantity we are discussing are not quantities you put in a drum or even in a tanker; we are talking of quantities that are moved at such levels that it is embarrassing for me as a Nigerian to discuss with the international community.”
Also, Atolagbe described crude oil theft as a socio-political problem caused by factors including price variation. “What is happening now is that first the aspect has been brought to light. Then, it means something urgent needs to be done about it…Now that it has come to the knowledge of everybody that things of this nature is going on, I am sure government is going to do something.”
About 108,000 barrels of crude are reportedly stolen daily in Nigeria. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries which Nigeria is a member estimates that the country lost 2.3 million barrels in July 2022 alone and 28 million barrels in total from January to July this year. The regulator said Nigeria lost $1 billion to crude theft in first quarter of 2022.
Atolagbe therefore advised the Federal Government to visit a report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative which outlined some steps to end the economic and environmental menace of crude oil theft.
“There is a NEITI report sometimes before this government came in which spelt out how to end COT (crude oil theft). Perhaps if something can be done, if they can lay hands on this kind of document. They wrote about how each litre that is coming out of this country is accounted for. If we can key into some of these areas, we may not be able to stop everything in an absolute manner but perhaps to some reasonable extent we will get some good results on the steps that have been taken,” he said.
On her part, Ashiru told a story of how illegal miners in a part of Nigeria paid state actors N500,000 each as protect fee to protect them whilst they engage in the criminal act.
“I can take this exact scenario and plug in the Niger Delta, in the areas that have illegal bunkering. If you are flying an helicopter, with aerial access, there is no way you can miss where this illegal bunkering is taking place.”
Until we check official complicity, we are going to have issues with our resources, she submitted.
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