EFCC must look beyond the 14 foreigners – Leadership

By The Citizen

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is reported to have arraigned 14 foreigners for alleged involvement in massive oil bunkering in Nigeria's territorial waters. The accused are from the United Kingdom, Russia, Ukraine and Japan. They were charged for conspiracy, unlawful dealing in petroleum products as well as storing petroleum products without lawful authority. The real issue with oil bunkering is that no one actually knows the quantity involved. The figures available are mostly estimates and they are frightening, pointing to the fact that it is not a crime by small fry. Our sources reveal that about 180,000 barrels of crude are stolen everyday with a value of $7billion as lost revenue, at current oil market prices. This level of theft is worrisome, because it is capable of crippling the economy and is doing that already, as is evident from the country's dwindling revenue from oil sales.

The more dangerous aspect of this illicit business is that those behind it have the resources to sustain it for as long as they want. Simply put, it is controlled by a powerful syndicate with the political and financial muscle to dare anyone. The involvement of the Nigerian military in the fight against oil theft has not made the kind of impact that would suggest that victory is in sight. Even with their intervention, the situation is getting worse. What this means, in our view, is that the unwholesome deal is clearly beyond their capacity to manage and the country's leaders, if they have the political will, must do the needful in terms of collaborating in an effective way with international security agencies to stop the haemorrhage.

At the peak of the Sierra Leonean crisis, fuelled mainly by the scramble for diamonds by the warlords who needed the revenue from their sale for their unpatriotic acts, the international community met and classified diamonds from such sources as rogue diamonds and deployed forces to check their sale in the international market. The problem of oil theft in Nigeria has reached the stage where the major powers must intervene in like manner. It is not unlikely that the presence of cheap and illegal petroleum products is responsible for the instability in the international oil market and its attendant effect on the economies of not just Nigeria, but also of other countries that depend on the resource for their development needs.

However, we commend the EFCC for this bold step of exposing these foreigners, who considered Nigeria an unprotected piece of cake available to everyone. The anti-graft agency must also admit that these are merely sacrificial lambs. Illegal bunkering is controlled by mafia-like organisations with tentacles of a multinational nature. There are also Nigerians who play big in this league. The EFCC must go after them. No one would have the nerve to venture into such a dangerous and illegal business in a foreign country without local collaborators.