Former Chief of Policy and Plans’, Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Henry Babalola (retd), has said that the federal government is not doing enough to eradicate the menace of oil theft which is wrecking disaster on the nation’s revenue base.
“The government is not doing enough to eradicate oil theft. Nigeria is not taking it as an emergency. Oil thieves/Criminals should be charged with treason. The amount lost to this menace is humongous.
Speaking at a seminar by Defence Correspondents Association of Nigeria with the theme, ‘‘Achieving presidential mandate in curbing oil theft and securing the nation’s wealth” in Abuja on Wednesday, Admiral Babalola recommended that those caught stealing the nation’s crude should be charged with treason.
“The $20bn said to be lost to crude oil theft by both the downdtream and upstream sectors would have shored up our revenue, and paid our debts. Crude oil theft will kill the nation if drastic action is not taken. Citizens should be punished to deter. It is one of the pillars of the criminal justice system. Failure of sanction or insufficient punishment for perpetrators has encouraged crude oil theft. “
Babalola also said the government needs to identify the supply chain of oil theft and identify the individuals involved, noting that those at the receiving end should be identified and brought to book.
He said it was high time the government treated the menace with urgency, warning that “oil theft would kill the country should the government fail to act timeously”.
In his remarks, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Dr. Ibrahim Abubakar Kana disclosed that the nation’s efforts at achieving the Presidential mandate handed to the Ministry is being achieved simultaneously due to the adaptation of synergy among the tri-services especially in planning, coordination and implementation of actionable programmes and projects.
Represented by the Director, Army, Mr. Sunday Attah, he said, “No doubt, the Nigerian Armed Forces and Agencies of the Ministry now enjoy wider public support and understanding which have resulted in positive attitudinal change among Nigerians.
“Nigerians are now very familiar with the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari in securing the country and guaranteeing the safety of Nigerians against banditry, kidnapping and terrorism.
While commending President Muhammadu Buhari for the special attention accorded the Ministry in providing for the needs of the armed forces of Nigeria promptly, and the guidance in the discharge of “our constitutional responsibilities”, he said, “Mr. President has ensured that the tri-services are rebranded with modern equipment as well as Military and Civilian Personnel are being trained and retrained regularly, to enhance proficiency and efficiency in service delivery.
“Wellbeing and welfare of Personnel by the Federal Government has continued to provide ideal accommodation for the comfort of soldiers and their families. Recently, the Ministry commenced the upgrading of Primary and Secondary schools, in addition to ensuring security and safety of teachers, pupils and the school environment.
“On this matter of oil theft before us as a nation, I call on all hands to be on deck especially the Media in the fight against this deadly menace. It is necessary to remind you that the expectations of Nigerians on the media is high and as such, you must live up to that expectation. Every story must be accurate, verifiable, credible and most importantly be relayed with high sense of patriotism and professionalism”.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva in his remarks said the order given by the President Mohammodu Buhari on the eradication of oil theft was yielding results noting, “Before that directive, oil production went down to 900, 000 barrels per day but today it is gradually picking up and oscillating between 1.5 million and 1.6 million barrels per day”.
Represented by his media aide, Horatius Egua, he said the problems confronting the oil and gas industry were caused by years of neglect by past administrations.
He said, “The oil and gas industry is the most complex sector in this country. That is why some allege that in the sector, the more you look, the less you see. However, in the last 12 months, the order by the president to end oil theft in the country is beginning to yield results.
“Apart from stealing, past governments did not invest in infrastructure in the oil and gas sector for a very long time. You find pipelines rupturing; we could not get what we wanted but this administration has done much to restore infrastructure”.
“The president directed that the refineries must work and as it is presently, the Port Harcourt refinery is at 65-70 percent. Hopefully before the end of the second quarter of the year. I believe something will come out of that refinery“.
The Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral AZ Gambo represented by the Director of Operations at NHQ, Rear Admiral OK Oluwagbire disclosed that concerted efforts by the Nigerian Navy in curbing oil theft which is one of its roles was yeilding tremendous success.
In this regard he said “Operation Dakatar Da Barawo (Catch the Thief) has arrested 125 crude oil criminal suspects in the last couple of months while also impounding and arresting 16 vessels both from within and outside the country”
Major General Solomon Udounwa, the Chief of Training and Operations at Defence headquarters represented the Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor while the Director of Defence Media Operations, Major General Musa Danmadami and the Director, Naval Information, Commodore AO Ayo-Vaughan participated at the seminar.