Presidency: We’ll Soon Reveal Those Behind Crude Oil Theft in Nigeria
* No hiding place for oil thieves, Tompolo promises, says FG knows culprits
*House Minority Caucus seeks probe of $40m daily loss
Deji Elumoye, Emmanuel Addeh and Udora Orizu in Abuja
The Presidency has said the federal government would soon reveal the identities of high-profile individuals behind crude oil theft in the country.
This is coming as the ex-Niger Delta warlord and Commander of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND), Mr Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo, has promised that there would be no hiding place for oil thieves, stressing that the federal government knows those behind oil theft in the Niger Delta.
Minority Caucus in the House has also called for the probe of the $40 million daily oil theft in the country, alleging that crude theft has become an organised racket under the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration.
Presidential spokesperson, Malam Garba Shehu, said this at the weekend while speaking on a live television programme.
He said as part of efforts to rid the country’s economy of sabotage, security operatives had raided locations where illegal oil bunkering thrives.
Shehu further hinted that there might be cases of some law enforcement agents engaging in the illegal act, adding that new measures were being taken to put a stop to it.
“Oil theft is being tackled. The big problem we have in this country is that we ought to see more commitment from communities in assisting law enforcement agents,” Shehu said.
“In some cases where some actors in the law enforcement are complicit, it becomes bad.”
The presidential spokesman said it was “embarrassing” for Nigeria not to meet up with the quota given to it by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
“We used to fight the OPEC for more quotas; now, they have given us and we are not able to meet up. This is embarrassing. As we speak today, all security agencies like the Nigerian Army, Navy, are massively involved in stopping this act,” he said.
“I am hopeful that in the next few days, the office of the national security adviser will be presenting to the nation – the big men – who are promoters of this kind of business as they are being caught and illegal refineries are being bombed out.
“The Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited is also installing a monitoring capacity to detect or advise immediately when sabotage of oil pipelines happens,” Shehu added.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Friday directed security agencies to immediately put a stop to theft of the country’s crude oil by criminals and vandals in the Niger Delta region.
“We will not allow a few criminals to have unfettered access to the nation’s crude oil supply, hence I have directed our security agencies to speedily bring to a halt the activities of these vandals in the Niger Delta,” Buhari had said in a statement.
“There should be no hiding place for such criminals, and our cooperation with neighbouring countries in halting these crimes is being strengthened and tightened.”
Recently, the Group Chief Executive Officer of NNPC Limited, Mr Mele Kyari, said the country suffered a monthly loss of N1.9billion to crude oil theft.
Currently, 13 Nigerian Navy personnel are being court-martialed in Lagos for allegedly conniving with crude oil thieves and pipeline vandals, among other maritime infractions.
Among those facing the Naval Court Martial are some officers who allegedly connived with people from some oil-producing communities in the Niger Delta, including traditional leaders, to operate suspected illegal refineries with siphoned crude oil.
Meanwhile, ex-Niger Delta warlord and Commander of the defunct MEND, Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo, has said that the federal government knows those behind oil theft.
In a video, which emerged yesterday from Thursday meeting with community chairmen and Niger Delta youths, Tompolo, who was addressing the gathering against the backdrop of a new pipelines surveillance deal reportedly worth about N4 billion monthly and N48 billion yearly, however, noted that there will be no hiding place for oil thieves.
When President Muhammadu Buhari took over in 2015, he insisted that it was a shame that regional warlords were the ones protecting the assets when Nigeria has a capable military.
He had gone after Tompolo who was then handling a surveillance contract under Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
The former warlord went underground for years, until his recent re-emergence.
However, the federal government appears to have realised the futility of deploying only government security forces to carry out surveillance activities on the pipelines, with the recent N4 billion monthly deal with the former warlord.
During the meeting, Tompolo, who spoke to the gathering on the negative implications of destroying the environment, explained that while he would consult with camp leaders, he won’t beg anyone to stop the sabotage.
“All of us had carried arms before; so, nobody can threaten anyone with guns. But what I want to assure you is that there will be no escape route for anybody,” the ex-militant who spoke in pidgin, warned.
Tompolo told his guests during the meeting which took place in Okerenkoko, Delta State, that he invited the community leaders because oil theft and bunkering had become a matter of concern to everybody.
“The reason I invited you here is on how to halt illegal bunkering. I am from Okerenkoko, the same way each of these community leaders is from a community. What we want to tell our mothers, fathers and all community leaders is that from today, after today’s meeting, we will work out the form that the operation will take. No more illegal bunkering.
“After now, we will give you the addresses of where you will be deployed so that you will be employed. The employment will be for men and women in the ratio of 60-40.
“I won’t pretend; this is what we all survive on – even God knows. If the right thing was done, we wouldn’t have reached this level. As I speak, I cannot in all honesty tell you that I don’t know the people behind this.
“God knows who’s behind it (oil theft), the government knows who’s behind it, but we just want to appeal, because the buyers and the sellers are deeply involved,” he stated.
He maintained that monies will be paid directly to employees and not through contractors, insisting that in the new dispensation, nobody will be short-changed.
“Anybody employed by this community, the money will go straight to them. We won’t give any job to contractors where you will ask that someone should be paid N20,000 and they will be given just N10,000,” he added.
Tompolo explained that it was not a case of Ijaw or Itsekiri or even Urhobo, stressing that everyone must come together to stop the menace.
In a related development, the Minority Caucus in the House has called for the probe of the $40 million daily oil theft in the country, saying crude theft has become an organised racket under the APC administration.
The Caucus in a statement by its leader Hon. Ndudi Elumelu lamented that 400,000 barrels of crude oil worth $40 million are allegedly being stolen daily.
While calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to take urgent steps to address the challenges facing the country, the caucus called for an immediate, independent and open investigation into the issue of oil theft in the country.
The statement read in part, “We are disturbed by reports of alleged complicity by certain corrupt government officials as evinced in the clandestine entrance and berthing of a 3-million-barrel capacity supertanker, MV. Heroic Idun in Nigerian waters to criminally load millions of barrels of stolen crude oil from our country. Such reported complicity is also evidenced in the failure of the Nigerian authorities to effectively intercept and arrest the criminal tanker and its crew, which successfully left the Nigerian waters only to be apprehended by the Equatorial Guinea Navy.
“This shocking development underscores the massive sleaze in our nation’s oil and gas sector under the APC administration, with consequential crippling effect on our overall national economy and social wellbeing. It is indeed disturbing that under the APC administration, according to official reports, oil thieves are having a field day stealing up to 400,000 barrels of crude oil every day. This amounts to a daily siphoning of about $40m (given the current average global oil price of around $100 a barrel) accrued revenue meant for the well-being of Nigerians.
“The Minority Caucus, standing with Nigerians, demands an immediate, independent and open investigation into the issue of oil theft in the country with particular reference to the circumstances that facilitated the reported illegal operation by MV Heroic Idun as well as its escape from our waters. Who granted the vessel entrance into the Nigerian waters? Who granted it facilities to illegally berth and pump stolen crude oil? What circumstances facilitated its escape from the Nigerian waters? Who is the vessel working for and who are those behind the illegal operation?” the Caucus queried.