Govt declares emergency over oil theft

By Athan Agbakwuru (Owerri), Gabriel Elozino Awodeha (Asaba), Chris Ezeonoh (Port Harcourt) and Aheroke Okioma (Yenagoa)

  • Says 400,000 barrels/$1.9b lost daily
  • Sylva, Irabor pledge partnership with states
  • Okowa wants surveillance contract reviewed
  • NSCDC partners army to combat menace

Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, has disclosed that the country loses 400,000 barrels of crude daily to oil theft, describing the development as a ‘national emergency.’

Sylva, who stated this when he visited the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma at the Government House, Owerri, lamented that the country had fallen short of the Organsaition of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) daily quota, from 1.8 million barrels to 1.4 million barrels due to crude theft.

He warned that such huge economic loss was capable of crippling the nation’s economy, if not given proper attention and expressed concern that the menace had persisted in spite of efforts by the Federal and state governments to end it.

Sylva said the challenge of crude theft could not be handled in Abuja alone, adding: “It is a national emergency because the theft has worsened because most of the theft takes place in the host communities of oil pipelines. As a result, it has become necessary to involve the stakeholders, especially the host communities.

“Due to the seriousness and orchestrated nature of the menace, Nigeria could not take advantage of the opportunities in gas production, because no investor would want to invest where there is incessant insecurity and vandalism of infrastructure.”

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Sylva, who appealed to the stakeholders to collaborate in tackling the menace, commended Uzodimma for his efforts in ensuring that Imo remained safe, while safeguarding the state’s economy. Also speaking, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor, thanked Uzodimma for supporting the Armed Forces in the fight against rising criminality in the oil-producing areas of the South East region.

Irabor urged the state government, stakeholders and communities to be actively involved in the fight against oil theft and leave the rest for the army and assured the governor that the army was ready for more assistance in the fight against banditry and other criminality in the state and entire country.

Responding, Uzodimma, who assured that his administration would sustain its efforts in checking economic sabotage being perpetrated by pipeline vandals, described the consequences of crude theft as very alarming and too much to be tolerated.

He added that the problem did not only result in the reduction of oil revenue for the Federal Government, but also created environmental pollution and other health hazards for the host communities. He, therefore, called for cooperation among federal and state governments, NNPC and host communities to effectively fight the scourge, adding that the meeting was part of the nationwide intervention efforts to curb crude oil theft.

Uzodimma commended the NNPC for the 200- bed capacity hospital the company was building at the Imo State University Teaching Hospital, Orlu and appealed to the company to facilitate the project and ensure its timely completion.

Others on the entourage were the Minister of State for Education, Gooduck Opiah, Group Managing Director of NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari, some traditional rulers and representatives of oil producing communities in the state. On his part, Governor Douye Diri has assured of Bayelsa State’s collaboration with other stakeholders to tackle oil theft, saying it poses serious threat to the Niger Delta and the entire country.

He stated this at Government House, Yenagoa when the Federal Government delegation led by Sylva visited the state on Monday. Diri, who noted that oil theft had affected the environment and image of the region negatively, canvassed urgent actions to end the ugly trend in the interest of the region and entire country.

In a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Daniel Alabrah, the governor lamented that oil theft, which also affects government at all levels, has denied the local communities their means of livelihood, stressing that if not stopped or reduced drastically, the implications would be grave.

Recalling how the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) discussed with governors on the issue, Diri stressed the need for collaboration between the states and the Federal Government to tackle the menace and assured that his administration would play its role to ensure that the menace is tackled effectively. His words: “The federal and state governments largely depend on oil.

So, oil theft does not affect only the federal government. It affects us as a state government and the local governments. We have spoken about this over and over and we will continue to say it. “We are talking about our environment that has been brazenly polluted through oil bunkering activities. If you go to our communities, you will see oil floating on our rivers, and that has led to the locals not having a means of livelihood. It has led to unknown diseases and sicknesses.

“There is a spiral effect of oil theft that is going on in the Niger Delta and it affects the communities and the people. So, I assure you that we will collaborate to ensure an end to oil theft. Speaking, Sylva said the team visited the state to seek collaboration with a view to ending oil theft in the Niger Delta, adding that stealing of oil was going on at an alarming rate and should no longer be tolerated given its negative effects on the country’s economy.

Sylva, a former governor of the state, who lamented that production has been badly affected, which is also having negative impact on foreign investments in the country, commended Diri for his willingness to collaborate with the Federal Government to end oil theft. Also speaking, Irabor said the military has heightened operational engagements to stop criminal activities in the Parading the suspects at its headquarters, Alagbaka, Akure, Commander of Ondo Amotekun, Adetunji Adeleye, said the 168 suspected invaders were nabbed by men of the corps who were on stop and search operation around Itaogbolu and Iju Communities in Akure North Local Government Area.

Adeleye disclosed that the suspects were from Kano and Jigawa States and had no obvious mission in Ondo. He said some of the invaders profilings earlier showed that a majority of them did not have any answer on where they came from. He disclosed that the corps found out that the influx of invaders was continuing.

The commander disclosed that if there is nobody to take custody of them in Ondo , they (the suspects) would be sent back to their various states after investigation and profiling show nothing incriminating on them. His words: “On Sunday, our stop and search team saw these two trucks.

They told them that they were on their way to Ondo State with cows after careful examination, we found out that they carefully concealed about 40 motorcycles with 168 people lying down beneath the motorcycles.

“The upper floor has cows, the middle has motorcycles wrapped and dismantled and on the lower floor, we have 168 people lying down, such that if you are not careful, you won’t observe it.” He stressed that after interrogation on where they were going, why they packed themselves and why they were avoiding people, they said they were coming to Ondo State.

He added: “Upon interrogation none of them have an address of where they are going, nobody invited them and we are becoming curious about these invasions.

I called it invasion because you see over 100 ablebodied men concealing themselves under animals, it shows they are up to negative motives. “We have commenced profiling but we want to warn citizens of the state to be wary of strangers because nobody knows how many invaders had managed to enter the state. We saw these ones with charms which we are yet to ascertain what their mission is.

“The motorcycle owners confessed that none of the bikes had papers and of course, they photocopied some papers. “You can see one engine number in 30 motorcycles which clearly shows that they were forged documents. We will find out how they got the motorcycles and also find out their mission in the state. If they don’t have any credible thing to do in the state, we will send them back.”

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