Mohammed Bello Adoke
• Oil workers deny Kuku’s allegation
Muhammad Bello and Linda Eroke
Worried by the loss of about 400,000 barrels per day, which translates to N7 billion per day, to oil theft, the federal government has approved the establishment of a Legal Task Force (LTF) to be headed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mohammed Bello Adoke, to prosecute cases of oil theft across the country.
The new taskforce is coinciding with the denial of oil workers that they were privy to the huge oil theft going on in the Niger Delta creeks.
Senior Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, had accused the IOCs of complicity in the ongoing crude oil theft in the country.
The LTF initiative was one of the outcomes of the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting presided over by Vice-President Namadi Sambo. Other issues discussed at the meeting were those of grazing reserves and Fulani/farmers clash, update of the report on 2012/2014 federal and state borrowing and almajiri education.
The LTF, according to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State, who is also the chairman of the Presidential Committee on Oil Theft Proliferation and Control, has as members the representatives of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Armed Forces, Civil Defence, Police, the State Security Service (SSS) and others.
Pointing out that the establishment of the LTF, whose members would be announced on Monday by Adoke and which lifespan would span 12 months, is predicated upon the fact that in the past, arrests of oil thieves were made but many of them were not prosecuted.
He explained that the task force will look at ways of enforcing the extant laws that stipulate 21 years imprisonment without option of fine for oil thieves, adding that: “We need to prosecute offenders otherwise they will continue to steal oil.”
Uduaghan, who indicated that the federal government was concerned about oil theft because it had so adversely affected the revenue base of the nation, said President Goodluck Jonathan was so concerned about the problem and had created lots of avenues to deal with it.
He said in order to augment this effort, state governors felt there should be extra effort by them to assist the federal government further, adding that NEC had mandated the governments of Bayelsa and Rivers States to hold meetings with Joint Task Force (JTF), international oil companies (IOCs) and stakeholders to ensure opening of pipelines.
Expressing worry that Shell alone is losing 300,000 bpd due to the shutdown of their operations in Bayelsa and Rivers States, Uduaghan said: “As Shell do more repairs, the thieves go back and do more damage, so NEC decided that the two pipelines should be opened.”
“The committee has moved to address the issue of the 400, 000 barrels per day production shortfall. The governors of Bayelsa and Delta States have been mandated to meet with the concerned oil majors and the JTF to work out modalities for the effective repair of the Nembe and Trans Niger pipelines which are currently shut.
“The Committee also mandated Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, Secretary to National Planning Commission, the NEITI chief executive and a representative of the Inspector-General of Police (IG) to meet with the AGF towards strengthening the extant deterrence policy by ensuring more arrests and convictions of the oil thieves,” revealed the governor.
However, workers in the nation’s oil sector have denied allegation by the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, that they are responsible for the rising spate of crude oil theft in the country.
They instead, accused politicians and influential people in the country of perpetrating the heinous act.
Reacting to media reports attributed to Kuku, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), described the statement as unimaginable, unguided, mischievous and uncouth of a presidential adviser.
The oil workers strongly protested the statement, describing it as an alarming notion which they believe was flippantly made.
The workers alleged that the criminal activities of crude oil theft were perpetrated by highly placed and influential individuals and politicians, adding that Kuku “is only being economical with the truth and trying to cover up with his allegation against the workers.”
The unions urged the federal government to call to order, the special adviser to the president against unguided and unsubstantiated provocative utterances in the interest of industrial peace and the respect for “our nation that seriously yearn for peace at this relatively volatile moment of our national life.”
They challenged Kuku to substantiate his allegations with facts, enthusing that, “Kuku is only being mischievous. We challenge the authorities on its readiness to join forces with the national and states’ intelligent, defence and security agencies in the patriotic crusade to completely unearth and get to the bottom of this grievous international criminality and national calamity so that both the Nigerian public and international community, some of whom already know and relate with the culprits or the syndicates will not be deceived or fooled by people like Kingsley Kuku”.