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Navy Wants Crude Oil Theft Treated as International Criminal Offence

28 Feb 2013

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Nigerian Navy

NBA tasks Jonathan on oil theft, seeks probe into Ezu River corpses

Okon Bassey and  Tobi Soniyi

The Nigerian Navy Wednesday resolved that it was time bold steps were taken in tackling head-on the problem of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the nation’s maritime domain.

The resolve, however, came on the heels of a call by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on  President Goodluck Jonathan to expedite action in addressing the menace of oil theft, stating  that N14 trilion worth of oil was stolen from the country between 2003 and 2008. The declaration was made at a two-day retreat by the Navy for Maritime stakeholders on the theme: “Deterring Crude Oil Theft and Pipeline Vandalism in Nigeria: A Panacea for National Economic prosperity”.

Participants at the retreat included the Chief of Naval Staff, Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy and Chairman, House Committee on Navy, Minister of Defense, represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defense, the Chief of Defense Staff represented by Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air staff, Inspector-General of Police (IG), Controller General of Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Head of Companies, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other maritime stakeholders.

At the end of the retreat, participants resolved that steps should be taken to establish campaign strategies to make crude oil theft an international criminal offence similar to the case of stolen diamond in Sierra-Leone, which is also referred to as blood diamond.               
In a communiqué issued at the end of the retreat stressed that: “Efforts should also concentrate on the strategy of severance of links between crude oil thieves and buyers through greater collaboration and application of the instrument of diplomacy with the international community.” 
The communiqué described as grossly inadequate resources made available for the Nigerian Navy to carry out the task of protecting the nation’s territorial domain, which is about 84,000 sq nautical miles.

In order to address this, the stakeholders demanded immediate increase in financial allocation to the Navy; approval for a dedicated fund for the Navy to effectively police the waterways as well as acquisition of more appropriate and requisite platforms to combat crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism. The retreat maintained that: “It is imperative and timely that a clearly defined policy of constructive engagement that encapsulates robust socio-economic imperatives that positively impact on the lives of the people in the Niger Delta area should be emplaced by the oil companies.”

Meanwhile, while addressing journalists in Abuja, on the outcome of the association’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Makurdi, Benue State, NBA’s President, Chief Okey Wali (SAN) said oil theft remained a serious drain in the nation's economy.

According to him, in 2011 and 2012 the country lost $7 billion and $9 billion respectively to oil theft.
He called on the president to put measures in place to reverse the trend.
Wali said: “NEC resolved that in view of the seriousness of the allegations of the possibility of the corpses being victims of extra-judicial killings, that a judicial commission of inquiry should be set up to look into the matter.”

The association also noted that safety of lives and properties had not yet been taken serious by the government.

Consequently, NBA asked Jonathan to set up a high-powered Presidential Judicial Commission of Enquiry to investigate the causes of death, source and identity of the floating corpses in Ezu River, Amansea/Awka, Anambra State  with a view to bringing any culprit(s) to book.

Wali said: “NEC resolved that in view of the seriousness of the allegations of the possibility of the corpses being victims of extra-judicial killings, that a judicial commission of inquiry should be set up to look into the matter.”

The association further observed that security of lives and property of Nigerians should be of paramount importance to government and called upon the Federal Government of Nigeria to take the issue of security more seriously and to make every effort to address the menace of terrorism, kidnappings and assassinations.
On the issue of local government reforms, the association noted that the practice in some states, where caretaker committees were set up to pilot the affairs of local governments was a flagrant breach of the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
NBA said that all the Chairmen in the 774 local government areas in the country should be democratically elected and given financial autonomy as envisaged by the 1999 Constitution.

However, the association may be heading for a showdown with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as it declared unacceptable and a violation of regulation of the legal profession and the law on confidentiality, the direction by the Special Control Unit on Money Laundering (SCUML), that Legal Practitioners in Nigeria should register with SCUML.

He said the leadership of the association had been authorised  to interface with the authorities concerned and if necessary institute legal action  to challenge the law.

Tags: News, Nigeria, Featured, Navy, Crude Oil Theft, International Criminal Offence

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