All the cacophony about oil theft in the Niger Delta and the setting up of a panel to probe the activities of oil thieves border on hypocrisy and an attempt to sidestep the real issue because it is a well known fact that the Federal Government prepared the fertile ground for oil theft to thrive in this country.

Things got out of hand when President Goodluck Jonathan illegally awarded N12 billion pipeline protection contract to ex-militants, Asari Dokubo, Ateke Tom, Boyloaf, Government Epemupolo a.k.a. Tompolo, and others. Since these characters usurped the constitutional role of Nigeria’s Navy in the wake of the amnesty granted the ex-war lords and their teeming members, Nigeria has become the oil theft capital of the world.

Justifying the illegal contract award that has not done Nigeria any good, Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Kingsley Kuku said the N12 billion pipeline protection contract was part of the presidential amnesty deal.

In his attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of Nigerians, Kuku said it is important that we stop deceiving ourselves that anybody can protect oil pipelines better than the natives of the oil communities where the pipelines traverse. He said he believes that only the people of the communities where the pipelines crisscross their backyards can conveniently work with the security agencies to stop oil theft and protect the facilities. According to him, the choice of ex-militant leaders such as Tompolo, Ateke Tom, Boyloaf and other leaders was to ensure the success of the jobs, as only the natives of the Niger Delta were well placed to assist security agencies in combating oil theft and tampering with facilities, adding that before the signing of the amnesty deal, the Federal Government had accepted to provide appropriate means of livelihood for the ex-warlords as a means of encouraging them to prevail on their supporters to keep the peace. Now that decision is bleeding the nation’s resources as they have proven incapable of protecting the pipelines.

Though the country does not know how many barrels of oil it produces, as it relies on figures provided to it by multinational oil companies operating in the country,  the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, recently put the figure of oil theft and illegal bunkering at 400,000 barrels per day while one of the Joint Venture Operators, estimates the loss to be between 150,000 and 180,000 barrels per day. What this means is that Nigeria may be losing about $40m (about N6bn) per day or an estimated N2.184tn per annum.

In spite of the chest-thumping by the  Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta that it destroyed 3,778 illegal refineries and seized eight vessels, 120 barges, 878 Cotonou boats, 178 fuel pumps, 5238 surface tanks, 606 pumping machines and 626 outbound engines allegedly belonging to oil thieves in the first quarter of 2012, the brazen theft has not abated and the nation’s economy is now reeling under this shocking theft. And the worst hit area of the activities of the thieves is Bayelsa, which ironically, is the home state of Prsident Goodluck Jonathan.

We  believe that the committee set up to look into oil theft in the region is a mere smokescreen that won’t achieve anything at the end of the day. This is because those involved in the organised crime include highly placed government officials and security personnel who are well known to those in authority. Until the nation’s leaders muster the necessary will to deal with these sacred cows, oil theft will persist in the region. The Federal Government should stop chasing shadows and deceiving Nigerians that it is up to the task of ending the staggering economic sabotage going on in that region.