By Ndubuisi Francis
The Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Hon. Kingsley Kuku, has raised the alarm that the level of oil theft in the Niger Delta painted a gloomy picture, lamenting that the nation was on the way to ‚Äòeconomic perdition‚Äô if the scourge is not frontally tackled through collaborative effort.
He stated that besides the heydays of militant agitations in the Niger Delta, when oil production nosedived to about 700,00 barrels per day, never in the history of Nigeria did it suffer the kind of loss posed by the current oil theft.
Kuku, who spoke in Abuja yesterday, while playing host to the national executive of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), noted that stealing of about 400,000 barrels of crude per day was an economic crime against Nigeria and had reached an alarming proportion for full military might and the collaboration of all stakeholders.
While applauding the strides of the Navy and the Joint Task Force (JTF) in combating the scourge, he described the magnitude of the current oil theft in the Niger Delta as ‚Äúoil ‚Äúblood oil crisis‚Äù only matched by the notorious Sierra Leonean ‚ÄúBlood Diamond.‚Äù
He noted that at the rate the perpetrators were going, the nation could get to a point where the government wwould not be unable to fund any activity.
‚ÄúIf we get to a point of between 800,000 and one million barrels per day, it will ground the economy. What they are stealing is higher than Ghana‚Äôs total oil production,‚Äù he said, adding that two-third of global economies were not having anything close to what is being stolen to keep their countries going.
He pointed out that unlike a¬† force majeure where there was a shut-in of oil which is later recovered, oil theft is an outright loss to criminal elements and their collaborators.
Kuku, who solicited the collaboration of PENGASSAN, other oil workers and stakeholders to stem the tide, reiterated his call for the multinational oil companies in the region to review their pipelines protection contracts.
While advocating that such review should be done in a very transparent manner to enthrone a credible procurement process, Kuku said the most potent way of checking pipelines vandalism and oil theft was to make Niger Delta indigenes actively involved in securing oil infrastructure as well as part owners of oil of oil resources.
Kuku, who is also the Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) also called for an effective collaboration between oil companies and states in the Niger Delta to check oil theft, arguing that oil theft was too sophisticated and expensive for an average Niger Deltan to prosecute.
He traced oil theft to the doorsteps of rich oil cartels and very wealthy individuals from within Nigeria and outside, who have the wherewithal to bear the attendant high costs, including demurrage.
‚ÄúNigerians must see oil theft as a war against Nigeria, and those behind it must be treated as economic criminals,‚Äù he said.
Earlier, the Deputy National President of PENGASSAN, Adamu Emmanuel Umoru, noted that Nigeria would not have occupied its present position if not for its god-given oil and gas resources, adding that such should be protected.
He said as oil workers, they were as disturbed as any well-meaning Nigerian concerning the current oil theft.
Umoru said oil workers were apprehensive that the current oil theft was a threat to them, and called for a collaborative action in addressing the menace.
Oil theft, he said, was too sophisticated and beyond the capacity and competence of the workers, stating that his association had continued to seek and proffer ways of tackling the problem.
He expressed regret that the theft had already caused a negative impact on government revenue.