Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt and Sylvester Idowu in Warri
In a bid to curb oil theft and illegal refining of crude oil in the Niger Delta, President Bola Tinubu has dispatched a powerful presidential delegation to the oil-rich region to inspect the federal government’s assets and meet with the governors.
The members of the delegation, which was led by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, include the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa; and the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Taoreed Lagbaja.
Others include Minister of Defence, Muhammed Badaru; Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawalle; Minister of State (Oil), Petroleum Resources, Heineken Lokpobiri; and Minister of State (Gas), Petroleum Resources, Ekperipe Ekpo.
Also, senior officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, led by the Group Chief Executive Officer of the company, Mele Kyari, and other top security personnel were part of the delegation.
Welcoming the delegation at the Government House in Port Harcourt, yesterday, Governor Siminalayi Fubara, of Rivers State criticised the federal government for awarding the contract for the protection of crude oil pip
elines to “one man
Though the Rivers governor did not mention any name, he said the strategy of the federal government won’t yield the expected results as an individual cannot have control over the assets in another man’s territory.
Fubara, who decried the neglect of the state by the federal government, called on the delegation to ensure that the outcome of their task would be beneficial to both the federal and the state governments.
The governor said, “Security of the pipeline should not be given to one man or one person. How can someone from Kalabari be controlling the pipeline in Ogoni? There is no way it will work. We must look at bringing all the key people in the various communities.
“Two of our sons from Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom are heading the Ministry of Petroleum. We don’t want them to fail. We must give them the necessary support.”
Fubara said that Rivers waged a strong war against the illegal refining of crude oil under the leadership of the immediate past Governor, Nyesom Wike and that his administration won’t lower the bar.
Addressing the governor, the NSA said the delegation was in Rivers at the instruction of the president.
He said the delegation was billed to visit Rivers and other Niger Delta states with a marching order from President Bola Tinubu to end crude oil theft and illegal refining of petroleum.
Ribadu said the president believes that “indeed this part of Nigeria matters a lot; not just the resources but of course the people of the Niger Delta need to live in peace.”
“He has given an instruction. As you see here, this is the entire federal might. Strategic individuals and offices are here assembled.
“This is a clear demonstration of a commitment and a belief that indeed, the time has come for us to open a new chapter.
“We believe that it is time to do the right thing and we’re going to do it,” the NSA said.
On his part, Badaru said the nation needs to secure its assets, adding that the inspection of the assets will enable the delegation to see the challenges and consider the best ways to resolve them.
The minister said the team is committed to ending the menace at whatever cost in the interest of the government and the people.
“We have the marching order by Mr. President to stop crude oil theft and all other vandalism around our installations and that we promised to do.”
The delegation also visited oil and gas facilities in Koko, Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State.
Speaking on the visit, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Lokpobiri, said the federal government was committed to putting a stop to pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta.
“We are here because of the problem of pipeline vandalism and illegal bunkering that is going on in the Niger Delta.
“I believe that it has become an existential problem and we need to fight them. We need to fight these criminals to submission.
“What is happening here is so bad that we cannot even know the implications unless maybe when people start dying in their numbers that is when people will know that a few persons who were profiting from this crime are here to wipe all of them out.
“So, as a responsible government, we have decided that we are going to put a stop to it.
“We are going to work with stakeholders to ensure that we stop all this nonsense in our society. We are not going to allow them.
“I also want to use the opportunity to express our gratitude to Tantita that has been commissioned by the NNPCL to be able to do some work but we are going to do a lot more.”
On his part, the NSA, Ribadu, said the federal government would sustain its partnership with Tantita Security Services Limited, to curb the crime of pipeline vandalism and oil theft in the Niger Delta.
He added that the federal government would soon take additional measures to ensure that things change for the better in pipeline security.
Ribadu said: “We have done very well to get to where we are now. We are certainly going to take more measures. So far, things are beginning to change. Give us little time and you will see things change for the better.”
Also, speaking, the Group CEO of NNPC Limited, Kyari, said the delegation was in Koko to assess the security situation so that they can respond to it in order to boost crude oil production.
“We are here to assess our security situation so that they can respond to it and improve on the current situation around our assets so that we can improve on our production.
“Currently, our production is going up due to the security intervention and we are looking forward to greater activities and support from the government to ensure this works,” Kyari added.