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Govt seeks foreign assistance on crude oil theft

By The Citizen
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The Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Lawan Ngoma has called on the international community to join hands with Nigeria in stopping the international criminal syndicate that makes a fortune by stealing over one hundred thousand barrels of crude oil from the country every day. Ngama also revealed that the administration has solved one of Nigeria's biggest corruption problems by bursting the fuel subsidy racket.

Ngoma, who represented the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala, made the call on Tuesday while giving the Keynote presentation at the UK-Nigeria Bilateral Banking, Finance and Investment Development Conference at Bloomberg in Moorgate, where he announced that the government has solved one of Nigeria's problem by bursting a fuel subsidy racket.

Describing oil theft as ' an international crime,' Ngoma told attendees:'it's not Nigerians stealing oil. The ships come and steal our crude oil and we want everybody to join hands with us to stop the thieves who come to Nigeria to steal our crude oil.'  Although he didn't specify the type of assistance the country needs or what signs buyers of crude oil should watch out for, he lamented that the international oil thieves were making a killing every single day.  According to him, 'the average loss is between 150,000bpd (barrels per day) to 180,000bpd.  This is greater than the total production of Ghana. So the equivalent of what Ghana is producing in crude oil  – per day- is actually what is stolen from Nigeria'  -per day- so we all have to join hands' because 'the criminals are international.'

However, he acknowledged that there's also a local dimension to crude theft as the lower operators siphon theirs through vandalisation of petroleum products' pipelines.  ' Products pipelines are also being broken by   militants and criminals and we've visiting that too. Once we finish with that, the leakage will drop,' he noted.

Continuing amidst a deafening silence when he mentioned the 'C' word, Ngoma admitted that corruption is one problem, which everyone knows has held the country back. But he was quick to point out that the administration has claimed one of the biggest scalps of the hydra headed monster. ' The second problem, which everybody has been talking about is corruption' and 'we 've dealt with corruption.

'We've cracked the biggest racket in Nigeria, the subsidy racket.' Recounting how the racket was milking the country in the past, the Minister revealed that:'before, we used to have 114 oil importers' whereas 'most countries in Europe have either five seven or maximum of 10 importers.'

Ngoma   noted that, rather than doing what they were paid to do, members of the racket were busy lining their pockets with oil money.

'Yet in Nigeria, you see brief case carrying importers, People who don't have any farm tank, yet the ship will come and load the oil. They will collect their subsidy bill and you won't see the ship.'

He revealed that the government blocked the loophole for the fake importers by designing a new system. 'We changed the system completely.  This actually made most of the importers to evaporate. Right now in Nigeria, only the big players, the genuine importers are actually supplying crude to Nigeria.'

And since taking this initiative, 'the subsidy bill has dropped significantly from N2.19 trillion in 2011. The calculation for 2013 has put everything below N1 trillion.   And that is a very significant reduction.'