Teddy Oscar, Abuja
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, has expressed the need to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to take a closer look at those behind the transportation and purchase of stolen oil.
Tambuwal, who spoke during the formal inauguration of a 17-member ad hoc committee on the incessant and unbridled theft of crude oil (bunkering) on Wednesday, also suggested that the anti graft body should act in conjunction with other international law enforcement agencies for criminal prosecution of the perpetrators under the procedure of Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA).
The committee was set up to carry out a 5-day investigation of the national problem,
The speaker also called for the speedy passage of PIB, adding that the passage would address the menace of crude oil theft in the Niger Delta region of the country.
He urged members to specifically take another look at the report by the Royal Institute for International Affairs, which alleged that Nigeria’s oil was being stolen not just from pipelines, but also from tank farms, export terminals, refinery storage, ports and even wellheads.
Reading from the report, Tambuwal said: “Officials and private actors disguise theft through manipulation of meters and shipping documents. Proceeds are laundered through world financial centres and used to buy assets in and outside Nigeria, polluting markets and financial institutions overseas, and creating reputational, political and legal hazards.”
He said that oil theft in the country has reached an industrial scale with over 100,000 to 400,000 barrels of crude oil daily, leading to the loss of billions in oil revenue.
“No country can endure such blatant rape of its resources by a few criminals who seem to grow bolder by the day. And no self respecting parliament can watch this kind of gross sabotage and not intervene.
“We must therefore end the kind of impunity that makes people think that our nation is a lawless place where people can get away with anything. We are here to prove that this nation has the ability to make things right and to make people pay for their crimes.
“We cannot begin to quantify the full economic and political damage that the activities of oil vandals have caused. For a nation that needs all the resources it can get to take care of its growing population of angry poor youth, this kind of rapacious theft of the commonwealth is nothing short of a disaster.
“So long as we allow these oil bunkerers to remain in business, so long will our people go without the basic needs of life. Since oil is our main source of wealth as a nation, we must do everything possible to defend the integrity of the process of oil production and sale in the international market.
“We need to put in place the right kind of legislation to improve the monitoring of on-shore and off-shore areas in order to discourage vandalism. We need to establish a robust regulatory framework to plug all loopholes through which all sorts of official and unofficial corruption thrive in the oil sector.
“It will be foolish to think of the culprits in terms of area boys who break pipelines. We must realise that without the protection of highly placed people, without the connivance of officials and experts in the sector, the activity of illegal bunkering would have been curtailed long ago,” he added.
In his keynote address at the event, chairman of the committee, Hon. Bashir Adamu, who lamented that a total of 350,000 barrels per day were lost to illegal bunkering in 2012, said that this represents an increase of 45 percent over the figure of 2011, and 67 percent over that of 2010.
“The trend for 2013 is even more alarming,” he added.
He said that the phenomenon of oil theft and its global support system has continued to remain a clog in the wheel of the nation’s high economic growth trajectory, lamenting that efforts made at combating the menace locally is made more complicated because of the international slant of the crime.
Adamu said that unless the government summons the will to fight the menace, the situation will further worsen the country’s economic woes.
“The rising level of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism particularly in the Niger Delta region has reached and assumed higher dimensions. The ugly development has made operators in the Nigeria oil and gas industry one of the most expensive in the world.
“Attacks on production facilities have led to several shut-downs and declaration of force majeure by the international oil companies (IOCs), ultimately resulting in loss of revenue to the government,” he said.