Esele, who is a former president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), said one effective approach is the deployment of technology in the region to stop the collaboration of officials, oil workers, and community members in the big business of crude theft in Nigeria.
He also identified corruption as the driving factor hindering past and present governments in Nigeria from nipping oil theft in the bud while urging the establishment of modular refineries and the removal of petrol subsidies to prevent further economic losses.
Esele was speaking during an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, Wednesday in Abuja.
Comrade Esele emphasized that systemic corruption is the main factor holding the Nigerian government back from tackling oil theft headlong.
According to Esele, the federal government must take advantage of technology to check oil theft: “Federal government can deploy area surveillance, and aerial surveillance these days is not so expensive, we have drone technology, and that can help.
“It is not just the federal government. Oil theft is affecting you, me, infrastructural development, healthcare, education, and until the federal government decides to stand up and take the challenge frontally, we will continue to talk about it,” Esele warned.
He revealed that the widespread oil theft is an organized venture run by groups in collaboration with security operatives, faulting the government for being unserious with finding a lasting solution to oil theft but only reacting presently because the country is “financially sick.”
To curb the menace, Esele, a former board member of the Nigeria Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI), urged the federal government first to get the buy-in of the oil-producing communities as the oil theft worsened by their sense of injustice.
An investigative report by the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) revealed that the volume of crude oil lost to theft and sabotage between 2016 and 2020 can massively provide infrastructure, reduce national debts, and build thousands of Primary Health Centers (PHCs) in Nigeria.
Also, speaking during the radio programme, the founder of Afrisankofa360, Tamunokuro Iyo Obietonbara, advocated strongly that the federal government encourages the setting up of modular refineries and removal of petrol subsidy if Nigeria must reduce oil theft to its barest minimum.
According to Obietonbara, “Nigerian government is hypocritical because government officials and top security officials are benefitting. They are the ones to a large extent, responsible for the oil theft,” he alleged.
He advised that the administration after President Buhari must be sincere with exposing perpetrators of oil theft, set up modular refineries, engage the communities, and fully deregulates the petroleum sector.
“An honest government will have the courage to expose and prosecute those culpable of sabotaging our economy.
“The incoming govt next year should engage the communities, set up modular refineries, fully deregulate the petroleum sector, let us bear the pain once and for all, take off subsidies, take off the corruption in the sector, and let market forces determine the price,” Obietonbara stated.
Earlier, a journalist with ICIR, Harrison Edeh, called for all hands to be on deck in the fight against oil thieves in Nigeria, noting that the country cannot quantify the impact of losing about 400 barrels of crude oil per day.
Edeh said, “everybody’s hand has to be on deck to solve this menace. It is a huge concern because it affects our economy and livelihood, and inflation is rising because we are borrowing overboard.
He welcomed the launching of an applications platform by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited to monitor crude oil theft. Still, He urged the government to establish a conciliatory pact with the oil-producing communities whose environment had been affected by oil exploration.
“The government must come out straight and strong in its approach. Don’t talk from both sides of the mouth. Find a way to engage relevant stakeholders from that region.
“Oil remains our mainstay. Everybody must sit at the table to make known their demands. The modular refineries are key, but they should also be guided so they don’t pollute the environment,” Edeh advised.
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.