International oil companies, IOCs, have been accused of alleged complicity in oil theft in some oil-producing communities, a move, it said is capable of threatening the nation‚Äôs economy.
Making the revelation while briefing newsmen, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, said Federal government would not leave any stone unturned in tackling the incident.
Kuku also pointed accusing fingers at notable personalities for aiding the nation‚Äôs crude oil theft.
He said that the process of stealing crude oil from pipelines in the coastal areas requires highly technical and mechanical expertise, which ordinary Nigerians or residents of the oil-producing communities do not have.
He absolved Niger Delta governors of complicity in crude theft, saying there was no evidence of their involvement.
Kuku maintained that oil theft was an international crime and urged the international community to go beyond coming up with penalising oil theft, and support the efforts of governments across the Gulf of Guinea and other parts of the region in dealing with it.
He said: ‚ÄúThe best you can find among Niger Delta people or some merchants of this trade are those doing menial jobs in it.
‚ÄúYou will need high-grade vessels and where you cannot load your illegal or stolen oil, you are definitely going to find yourself in a mess where you will have to pay huge sums for demurrage.
‚ÄúHow many Nigerians have the capacity to do that? Very few people. So it is an international crime.
‚ÄúI know of one thing and this is the bombshell that there are workers in the oil and gas industry who have the expertise, the technical know-how and knows about the ways and means of sabotaging the oil and gas industry, who are likely to be involved.
‚ÄúThis is critical and I know that a lot of multinationals will be angered by this, but their being angry is not a bother to me.
‚ÄúSo you have a situation where some pipeline protection contractors empowered by the oil companies participate in the theft.
‚ÄúThis is not about NNPC; not about PPMC. You know almost every oil company has pipeline protection contract and pipeline surveillance contract for local security contractors.
‚ÄúThe same people, who are meant to be securing these pipelines participate in oil theft. So the oil multinationals must look inwards at their contracting process, their procurement process, look at the status of some of their vendors and security contractors, x-ray them, review their processes very well and deal with the issue of oil theft as it affects participation in-house in the oil and gas industry.‚Äù
He said though Federal Government had made tremendous progress in curtailing oil theft, it still needed the cooperation of the international community to win the war.
‚ÄúI want to say that the federal government has taken very great steps in dealing with the issues of oil theft. It‚Äôs not going to be won in a single day. It is a very specialised and mechanised crime issue. It‚Äôs not a crime committed ordinarily by poor people; it‚Äôs a crime committed by very organised people but it is a matter of demand and supply. It‚Äôs an international crime and the federal government is taking steps like I said even to the U.K, to South Africa and the U.S. and has urged them to participate in dealing with it as an international crime,‚Äù he added.
He explained that without international buyers, there would be no local suppliers and this would consequently lead to a decline in oil theft because the business will no longer be lucrative.
‚ÄúThey (international community) also claimed they will need local enforcement of laws within the country to participate in dealing with it as an international crime. The essence is not those who are involved here locally, but it is basically about those who bring high quality funding for this crime and it is not a crime that is executed in terms of implementation within our shores.
It is off the Nigerian shores so they are either coming from Europe or America. So there is need for the international community, other than creating penalising codes against oil theft as an international crime, to support us across the Gulf of Guinea and other parts of our region ‚Äì the Niger Delta in dealing with these crimes,‚Äù he said.
Multinational oil firms, including Shell, Agip and Chevron have complained of increasing rate of oil theft and sabotage of their facilities.
Nigeria is estimated to lose about $6 billion annually to oil theft. The theft occurs despite the amnesty granted militants, which has cost the federal government billions of naira while some of the militants were given multi-billion naira security contracts from both the companies and the government to guard oil pipelines.
On the role of the illegal refineries in the Niger Delta, Kuku admitted that it existed in the past, saying: ‚ÄúYes, we used to have illegal refineries but after Mr. President issued the directive, the Nigerian military has been expanding their mode of operation and rules of engagement in dealing with the issue of oil theft and bunkering.‚Äù
‚ÄúThey have been able to wipe away the issue of illegal refineries, particularly in Rivers State and most other parts of the Niger Delta. The navy in particular has been dealing with those involved in illegal refineries. Even on this, I have my take, if the people who are not specialists in drilling, refining can create that kind of ways and means to turn crude to kerosene and fuel, as evil as it is, there is something positive about the fact that our people can be that creative.
‚ÄúSo we need to re-channel that energy to something legal. So it‚Äôs just not about stopping it, is also about identifying those who are involved and getting them to channel their energy legally and positively in the oil and gas industry, at the level of local participation, communities in the region,‚Äù Kuku added.