By Gabriel Elozino,
The Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva has pledged the ministry’s partnership with the Delta State Government and the Nigeria Military on measures to check oil theft in the country.
Sylva stated this when he led Federal Government’s delegation on anti-Oil theft to a courtesy visit on the Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa at Government House, Asaba, on Monday, saying “as a country we cannot sustain this kind of theft perpetually”.
He said that oil theft had become a national emergency, especially as the nation had not been able to meet its OPEC production quota.
“Our production has dropped drastically to very unsustainable levels; so, we have decided to take the bull by the horn by putting some structures in place and those structures cannot function effectively without the collaboration of the state government,” the minister said.
Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, who is coordinating the security intervention against oil theft, disclosed that in the last five months security agencies had been dealing with issues of illegal refineries and oil bunkering across the Niger Delta.
The CDS also advocated for the engagement of indigenes and host communities in the fight against criminal activities.
On his part, Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC Limited, Mallam Mele Kyari, said that Nigeria was currently losing about two billion dollars monthly to the activities of oil vandals, with its attendant effect on environmental degradation.
“As a country, we hardly meet our OPEC production quantum of 1.99 million barrels per day with our current production level of 1.4 million barrels per day which is currently being threatened by the activities of these economic saboteurs.
“This has done extensive damage to the environment and losing 1.9 billion dollars every month is colossal, considering the nature of the global economy at the moment,” he disclosed.
Kyari reinstated that the team needed the support and buy-in of Delta Government “because stopping this oil theft requires the concerted efforts of the Federal, State Governments, oil companies and security agencies”.
In his response, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa advocated for a review of surveillance contracts on oil facilities to involve host communities in order to check the high rate of oil theft in the country.
He said that reviewing oil surveillance contracts based on the performance of the contractors and engagement of host communities would ensure effectiveness in securing the nation’s oil and gas assets.
He admitted that the challenge of oil-theft was huge, given the level it had assumed, but expressed happiness with the steps being taken by the authorities to curb the menace.
“I am glad that we are discussing this hydra-headed issue which impacts directly on our economy and the environment.
“It impacts on the health of the people and sustainability of the environment and I am glad that we are taking some steps because there are so many issues that led us to this.
“We went through situations where gaps were created between host communities and oil companies, and unfortunately criminality set in.
“It has gone so bad but we are doing our best as a state. I am also glad about this collaboration,” he said and stressed the pertinence of a review of surveillance contracts of the oil facilities to ensure community involvement.
The governor pointed out that it was often difficult to secure the facilities, especially when the persons given the contracts did not have adequate information on the environment or did not have the buy-in of host communities.
“We know that the impact of the nefarious activities on the health of the people cannot be immediately ascertained, and this collaboration is, therefore, very imperative.
“Any measure that will deliberately reduce the level of oil thefts is definitely worth supporting, and as a state government, we pledge our continued support.”
Pix: Delta Governor, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa (2nd left); Minister of State for Petroleum, Chief Timipre Sylva (2nd right); Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Lucky Irabor (left) and Group Chief Executive Officer, NNPC Ltd., Mallam Mele Kyari, shortly after a meeting with Okowa at Government House, Asaba, on Monday.
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