House Seeks End To Crude Oil Theft

...Wants EFCC, others to prosecute buyers SAN FRANCISCO, December 11, 2013, (THEWILL) -  The House of Representatives Wednesday expressed strong concern on the increasing theft of crude oil in the Niger Delta area and called on the security agencies to tackle those involved in the illegal business. The Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, said the House would act speedily to ensure the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in order to address the crime, warning that the House would no longer condone this act of sabotage. Chairman of the House ad hoc committee on oil theft, Hon. Bashir Adamu,  who made the House position known at the inauguration  of the committee by Tambuwal He lamented that a total of 350,000 barrels per day was lost to illegal bunkering in 2012, representing an increase of 45 percent over the figure of 2011, and 67percent over that of 2010,  stating that the trend for 2013 is even more alarming. He said the phenomenon of oil theft and its global support system has continued to remain a clog in the wheel of the nation's high economic growth trajectory, lamenting that efforts made at combating the menace locally is made more complicated because of the international slant of the crime. According to the lawmaker, "The rising level of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism particularly in the Niger Delta region has reached and assumed higher dimensions. The ugly development has made operators in the Nigeria oil and gas industry one of the most expensive in the world. "Attacks on production facilities have led to several shut-downs and declaration of force majeure by the international oil companies (IOCs), ultimately resulting in loss of revenue to the government," he said. Adamu noted that oil and gas accounts for about two-thirds of government revenue and more than 90 percent of export earnings in Nigeria, but lamented that illegal bunkering has caused Nigeria to lose an estimated $5billion (N780 billion) yearly, amounting to $400 billion since the country gained independence. He said oil theft in the country has reached an alarming  rate  with over 100,000 to 400,000 barrels of crude oil lost on a daily basis , leading to the loss of billions of Naira  in oil revenue. "No country can endure such blatant rape of its resources by a few criminals who seem to grow bolder by the day. And no self-respecting parliament can watch this kind of gross sabotage and not intervene. "We must therefore end the kind of impunity that makes people think that our nation is a lawless place where people can get away with anything. We are here to prove that this nation has the ability to make things right and to make people pay for their crimes. "We cannot begin to quantify the full economic and political damage that the activities of oil vandals have caused. For a nation that needs all the resources it can get to take care of its growing population of angry poor youth, this kind of rapacious theft of the commonwealth is nothing short of a disaster. "So long as we allow these oil bunkerers to remain in business, so long will our people go without the basic needs of life. Since oil is our main source of wealth as a nation, we must do everything possible to defend the integrity of the process of oil production and sale in the international market. "We need to put in place the right kind of legislation to improve the monitoring of on-shore and off-shore areas in order to discourage vandalism. We need to establish a robust regulatory framework to plug all loopholes through which all sorts of official and unofficial corruption thrive in the oil sector," he said. He lamented that bunkering was a complicated and sophisticated business, adding that "it will be foolish to think of the culprits in terms of area boys who break pipelines." According to him, "We must realise that without the protection of highly placed people, without the connivance of officials and experts in the sector, the activity of illegal bunkering would have been curtailed long ago." While inaugurating the Committee, Tambuwal urged the lawmakers to critically study the report by the Royal Institute for International Affairs which alleged that Nigeria's oil was being stolen not just from pipelines, but also from tank farms, export terminals, refinery storage, ports and even wellheads. The speaker noted that according to the report,  'Officials and private actors disguise the theft through manipulation of meters and shipping documents." It added that " Proceeds are laundered through world financial centres and used to buy assets in and outside Nigeria, polluting markets and financial institutions overseas, and creating reputational, political and legal hazards.' He also expressed the need to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to take a closer look at those behind the transportation and purchase of stolen oil - and act in conjunction with other international law enforcement agencies for criminal prosecution of the perpetrators under the procedure of Mutual Legal Assistance.