Crude Oil Theft: Government Is Helpless, Top Officials Complicit Says Senior journalist Who Reports In Niger Delta

The executive producer of the acclaimed television and radio series, Inside The Niger Delta, Mamode Akugha says the Federal Government is helpless in the fight against oil thieves in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

Over One billion US dollars’ worth of crude was stolen from Nigeria in the first quarter of this year. Akugha said crude theft is the biggest single business in Nigeria today.

Akugha was speaking during an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, Wednesday in Abuja.

He lamented that for every 100 barrels of oil crude produced, Nigeria loses 91 to oil thieves, leaving the Federal Government of Nigeria with only 9 barrels, leading to huge losses in revenue and fueling the illegal refinement of some of the stolen crude oil in the Niger Delta region.

Executive Producer, Inside The Niger Delta, Mamode Akugha

Akugha said top military officers and community members were involved in the illegal business and urged the government to restructure the security architecture in the Niger Delta region and organize and set up modular refineries to curb the widespread oil theft and illegal refining of petroleum products in the Niger Delta region.

The menace of oil theft had become a national disaster and a severe threat to Nigeria’s revenue base, and it is now said to be losing crude oil at the level of about 91 percent of output. Furthermore, a recent investigative report by Premium Times revealed that residents of Port Harcourt and environs risk health problems due to soot pollution.

Akugha called on President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to change security strategies and stop the involvement of the military personnel in the booming oil theft business in the oil-rich region.

He emphasized that the menace of oil theft continues to thrive due to corruption and complicity of military personnel and senior government officials, stressing that redeeming Nigeria from oil thieves can only be possible if the government rejigs the security architecture in the Niger Delta and stop military officials from getting involved.

 “The military is the ones who sell black (crude oil) to the boys, and the boys take it back to their camps and refine it. Some refine, some do bagging, some do the loading, and eventually, some coordinate the tankers that come in. This is happening in Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Ondo, and Imo. It’s happening in every single place where you have oil production.”

Asked what the government must do to tackle oil theft, Akugha said: “The right thing is just ensuring that our entire security architecture is overhauled.

“These military guys have tasted this thing; it’s going to be so challenging to take it out of them. They are so corrupt now. In the Niger Delta, the military is a big problem.

“It’s not that the FG does not know the involvement of their people. Governor Nyesom Wike has even pointed direct fingers at some people. He named a commander of an army formation in Port Harcourt directly responsible for oil bunkering, but what has the Federal Government done about that? So they need to overhaul their security strategy and remove the military from involvement in oil theft.

Journalist with Premium Times, Chiamaka Okafor

Akugha advised the Buhari administration to jettison importation of petroleum products by organizing individuals in the Niger Delta region to run illegal refineries and establishing modular refineries, which will, in turn, reduce the burden of subsidy payment and loss of foreign exchange by the nation.

“The government should go to the Niger Delta; What they are producing locally in diesel production now is even better than what is imported. Let them get these boys into cooperatives, support them, set up modular refineries, and let us forget about importing petroleum products from outside Nigeria and save that forex so the naira can improve,” Akugha stated.

Earlier, a journalist with Premium Times, Chiamaka Okafor, noted that residents of Port Harcourt and its environs are in grave health danger following the soot pollution. She said that indigenes of communities she visited were the ones operating the illegal refineries, adding that unemployed university graduates are sorting to oil bunkering and illegally refining crude oil in the Niger Delta region.

Despite identifying the lack of political will as a major challenge of the government in tackling the menace of oil theft, Okafor urged President Buhari-led government to live up to its billing regarding stamping out oil theft and soot pollution in oil-producing states.

“For every problem in Nigeria, it is not the absence of the government knowing what to do but the lack of political will. So the onus lies on the government, and if there is no political will, we are back to ground zero, and that’s where we’ve been all this while.

Last week, President Buhari vowed to increase security across the country to try to stamp out widespread oil theft after the supertanker, MV Heroic Idun, with a capacity of three million barrels, was seized by the navy of Equatorial Guinea, days after fleeing Nigeria.

(R-L) Program Manager, PRIMORG, Adaobi Obiabunmuo; Executive Producer, Inside the Niger Delta, Mamode Akugha;
Journalist with Premium Times, Chiamaka Okafor; and Media & Research Assistant, Esther Bassey

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

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