Who Will Stop These Oil Thieves?



A few days ago, the Executive Secretary of Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed said Nigeria’s oil industry was being undermined by the activities of oil thieves. But then, this is no news as stealing oil, crude or refined, has been going on for as long as the country has existed and it is now assuming a frightening dimension as oil thieves are justifying their action by asking what happens to the money from the oil government legally sells.

That oil thieves should justify their illegal action means we have a bigger problem than we admit. That is how bad the rot in the oil and gas sector has become. Even in government, the monumental corruption going on in this sector boggles the mind, yet nothing is being done to arrest the situation. Rather it is as if corruption is being encouraged because at the end of whatever investigations into alleged corruption he result is swept under the carpet.

Late last week, the Lagos State Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences (Enforcement) Unit uncovered a place in Ikorodu where oil thieves have vandalised petroleum products pipeline and have been stealing oil. The anti-vandal unit, led by Dele Laleye, swooped on the thieves and seized 300 jerry cans. Two of the vandals were arrested while the rest of them escaped.

All over the country, wherever oil pipelines pass through and even in the creeks and high sea in the Niger Delta, Nigeria’s commonwealth is being plundered and nobody is doing anything to stem this tide. Sometimes, even those posted to those places to prevent the stealing join the bandwagon and the pillaging continues.

Recently, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, disclosed that the country loses about 180,000 barrels of crude oil to oil thieves daily which translates to about $16.3 million or N2.47 billion. The crude oil production loss was corroborated by the National Task Force on Petroleum Revenue headed by the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.

He added that sustained security challenges in the petroleum sector were contributing about 30 per cent of total revenue loss from the industry.

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Before now, militants in the Niger Delta had been fingered as being behind the massive oil theft in the creeks but high-profile criminals have taken over the illegal business and are acting with impunity.

The environmental crisis the creeks, apart from revenue loss, should be a source of concern to the Nigerian government. Pipes carrying crude oil are vandalised and theft to despoil the land and waters; affecting aquatic life and even farming.

Government needs to sit up and do something about this theft and environmental degradation. We cannot afford to continue to watch as some enemies of this country destroy her all in the name of taking their own share of the national cake.

The government is doing what it can but we believe it can do better to check these criminals and their sponsors. Oil pipelines should be better protected, even when they are in forests and creeks.

Early last month, military men arrested 21 Ghanaians and five Nigerians for alleged oil theft as they operated two vessels with a capacity of 650,000 metric tons of oil in the country’s oil producing region. We do not know if they are being prosecuted but we know the case can be swept under the carpet.

This should not happen again. Nobody will make Nigeria better if we do not. The Federal Government must sit up and work on the problem of oil thieves. We cannot continue this way! People are stealing subsidy money, refined petroleum products and even crude oil while government h does nothing. Something needs to be done and fast too.