By Etuka Sunday
Stakeholders in the Nigerian oil and gas sector have called for coordinated security response, efficient governance structure, special courts and stringent sanction to secure oil assets and check crude oil theft in the country.
The call was part of key resolutions reached at a Policy Dialogue, convened by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) to proffer sustainable solutions to the scourge of oil theft in the country.
The Director, Communications & Advocacy, NEITI, Dr. Orji Ogbonnaya Orji in a statement said, the dialogue followed NEITI’s recent policy brief which disclosed that Nigeria lost $41.9b between 2009 and 2018 to crude oil theft and product losses, including other social and environmental challenges associated with illicit activities of oil thieves.
Speaking at the dialogue, Edo State Governor and Chairman of the National Economic Council’s Committee on Crude Oil Theft, Prevention and Control, Mr. Godwin Obaseki said oil industry must end the prevailing incentives that make it possible for crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism to flourish.
Lamenting on the oil thieves impunity, Mr. Obaseki said: “When breeches are reported, when products are lost, we just deal with the financial losses to the operators, but what happens to government? Nobody is ever held accountable; nobody is brought to order”. He affirmed the commitment of National Economic Council to consider the resolutions at the dialogue as valued contributions in search of solutions to end oil theft in Nigeria.
Also speaking at the event, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timipre Sylva, disclosed that in addition to its huge negative security implications on the country, oil theft had caused difficulty in operating environment, high cost of production and assets divestment by some companies.
Speaking through his Special Adviser on Niger Delta, Felix Bob-Nabena, the minister noted that despite sophistication of weapons committed to ending the incidences, government would continue to review current efforts to end oil theft in the country.
In his presentation, NEITI Executive Secretary, Waziri Adio, identified active markets for stolen crude and products; low cost and high incentive for oil theft; weak measurement and surveillance mechanism; weak and inadequate sanction as part of reasons why illicit business of oil theft lingers in Nigeria.
Mr. Adio said: “$41.9 billion that Nigeria lost to oil theft and product losses in ten years (2009-2018) translates to $11.47 million per day, $349 million per month and $4.19 billion per annum”. He called for deployment of appropriate technology, diplomatic and global partnership, and multi-sectoral approach to stem the menace of oil theft in the country.
On his part, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mele Kyari, described the high spate oil theft in the country as a threat to national economy, given the critical role of oil and gas revenues to the country.
Kyari, who was represented by the NNPC’s Chief Operating Officer, Upstream, Roland Ewubare listed other measures to curb the menace to include improved security architecture with single accountability for national critical infrastructure.
“NNPC as a player in the downstream sector has felt direct brunt of the attacks on our facilities and assets. Between 2001 and 2019, we recorded a total of 45,347 pipeline breaks and breeches on our downstream pipeline network,” he added.
Stakeholders at dialogue also called for need to strengthen relevant legislations, prompt prosecution of oil thieves; improved oil communities’ stake holding;commitment to transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector, among others.
Participants at the dialogue include representatives of Office of the Speaker, House of Representative; Office of National Security Adviser; Joint Task Force; Nigeria Security and Civil Defense; Nigeria Police Force; Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit; and Department of Petroleum Resources. Others are: former Minister of State for Petroleum, Odein Ajumogbobia (SAN); Executive Director, Oil Producers Trade Section (OPTS), Mr. Buumi Toyobo; Head of Security, OPTS, Mr. Shina Bankole; Managing Director, AITEO Energy Pipelines, Nembe Creek Trunk Line, Mr. Tunde Akinpelu; media/civil society organizations and development partners.