The Federal Government of Nigeria has disclosed that huge crude oil theft in the country is causing substantial loss in production and revenue, just as security personnel have been alleged to be part of the problem.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, lamented that those who perpetrate the act have caused the production level to reduce by 400,000 barrels per day (bpd), translating to a drop from 1.8 million to 1.4 million bpd.
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Daily Trust on Sunday reports that Taiwo Oyedele, a Fiscal Policy Partner and Africa Tax Leader at PWC Consulting, is of the opinion that at least crude oil worth $20bn (estimated N14trn at N700/$1) may be lost to theft in Nigeria in one year.
“With an average crude oil price of $112 in the first half of 2022, the financial loss translates to about $10bn for six months or $20bn if extrapolated for the year.
“This is more than 50 per cent of our external reserve or over N8trn, which is more than the entire tax revenue collected by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the 36 states plus the FCT in 2021,” he stated while analyzing the situation.
While most oil-producing countries are smiling to the bank, given high oil prices, Nigeria is virtually broke resorting to heavy borrowing to fund the budget.
The Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd), Mele Kyari, recently said the oil thieves include senior government officials, security forces and religious leaders, among others.
All attention is now being directed at the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the government agency responsible for the protection of critical national assets and infrastructure.
Officers of the corps who were expected to curb the menace are now being accused of facilitating the criminal act.
Commandant General of the NSCDC, Abubakar Audi, recently confirmed that some personnel of the corps were collaborating with criminally minded people to steal crude oil.
He disclosed this when he summoned Commandants and Heads of Anti-Vandal Units across the country to the nation’s capital to proffer a solution to oil theft in the country.
“Some believe that security agencies are part of oil theft in the country, but we must do what is necessary to redeem our image.
“Some of the anti-vandals units have been found wanting. We want you to reposition the units for better performance,” he had said during the meeting.
During the strategic security meeting, the CG tasked the top officers to check excesses and inappropriate behaviours of officers so as to address oil theft and bunkering.
“I want to make it clear that anyone involved will not be spared. We will apply all the rules necessary for sanctions of all recalcitrant elements.
“The corps will use its hammer on any personnel involved in compromise of oil theft regardless of his position. There will be severe punishment for anyone found wanting. If you join the corps to make money by cooperating with oil thieves, we urge you to resign.
“The Minister has directed that anyone caught sabotaging the image of government will be severely sanctioned. I warn that the corps has no place for mediocrity and incompetence. Redouble your efforts and reposition the sectors for better performance.”
To show the seriousness of the corps, Audi has given an order for the dissolution of its Anti-Vandalism Units nationwide on Tuesday in Abuja at a meeting with senior officers and all state Commandants of the Corps.
Audi also directed that all illegal roadblocks by the anti-vandalism squads be dismantled immediately.
“We’ve gotten information that some roadblocks were not approved, so those are the ones that will be dismantled,” he said.
A recent viral video had shown some NSCDC personnel in acts of extortion.
He said the disbanded squad would be reconstituted in due time for better service delivery, while noting that the issue of oil theft had been of great concern to the Federal Government and warned that the corps would not condone sabotage or compromise in the protection of oil installations.
And to improve the capacity of personnel to tackle oil theft, the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, commissioned eight NSCDC gunboats to wage a full-scale war against the perpetrators of this heinous crime.
The minister said the move became necessary to strengthen the combative capacity of the NSCDC’s Anti Vandalism Squad in stemming the tide of huge revenue loss to the Federal Government in the oil sector.
Performing the official commissioning of the gunboats in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the Minister of Interior described the incidences of oil theft as an organized crime ridding the nation of accrued revenue running to millions of dollars annually.
This new strategy will also address the fears recently raised by the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari, that stolen crude oil products are now stored in places of worship such as churches and mosques.
Audi affirmed that the eight newly commissioned gunboats and other strategies in place will boost the morale of the Corps in combating the menace of crude oil theft along the waterways.
“The NSCDC is generally expected to effectively safeguard critical infrastructure and oil installations which are very central and vital to the socio-economic development of the nation.
“The Corps is saddled with the mandate to guard against oil theft and illegal oil bunkering through the provision of physical security to oil pipelines against vandalism.
“Therefore, any threat to the oil and gas sector is automatically considered a high-security concern, owing to the debilitating effects it has on national development.
“It also constitutes environmental degradation, pollution, destruction of land and aquatic life, loss of means of livelihood and drastic reduction in the inflow of foreign exchange needed to bolster the economy of the nation,” the CG said.
It’s now left to be seen if these steps by the NSCDC will curb the massive oil theft going on in the Niger Delta and reposition the country for economic prosperity in the nearest future.