Senate initiates investigation into N2.3trn oil theft, fingers Army, Navy
The Senate has ordered a comprehensive probe into the activities of security forces and organised groups employing sophisticated techniques to illicitly steal crude oil in the country.
This decision was prompted by a motion put forth during Tuesday’s plenary session by Senator Ned Nwoko of the People’s Democratic Party representing Delta North, who pointed out that existing statistical data highlights the grave socio-economic crisis Nigeria is facing due to pipeline vandalism and oil bunkering.
Nwoko stressed that oil theft has resulted in an astonishing revenue shortfall of N2.3 trillion for Nigeria this year.
He further asserted that certain individuals within the security apparatus collaborated with unscrupulous elements in the oil industry to partake in this unlawful practice, thereby undermining the concerted efforts of the Joint Task Force, composed of the Nigerian military and various security agencies, aimed at addressing this menace.
Nwoko said, “The current collaborative efforts involving the Joint Task Force of the Nigerian military, operations like Operation Delta Safe and Operation Dakartada Barawo, along with the contributions of various security entities, state and local governments, and International Oil Companies in the Niger Delta region have yielded positive results.
“These efforts have increased oil production, reaching 1.51 million barrels per day in the first quarter of 2023. This figure marks an improvement from the 1.49 million barrels per day recorded in the same quarter of 2022 and is notably higher than the production volume of 1.34 million barrels per day in the fourth quarter of 2022.
“Despite the efforts of certain military personnel and security agencies like the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps and Department of State Services in combating oil theft in the Niger Delta region, there are individuals within these institutions who engage in illicit activities.”
Nwoko added, “These individuals collaborate with unscrupulous figures within the oil industry to undermine the nation’s economy.
“Also observes that it has come to attention that oil theft in Nigeria thrives due to a troubling collaboration between security forces, militia groups, the local population, and certain employees within oil companies.
“These parties employ sophisticated methods to carry out theft from oil facilities in the country. Given Nigeria’s vast oil and gas reserves, one would expect crude oil production to continuously increase, aligning with OPEC’s production quota of 1.74 million barrels per day.”
The Delta lawmaker further said there had been accusations and counter-accusations of oil bunkering and various other crimes between the military and local militia groups.
These allegations, he said, underscored the significant level of sabotage and disruption to the nation’s economic backbone.
“In 2022, it was reported that Nigeria suffered daily losses of approximately 437,000 barrels of crude oil, amounting to a value of $23 million, due to criminal activities.
“In March 2023, Nigeria incurred a substantial loss of 65.7 million barrels of crude oil, valued at $83 per barrel, translating to a staggering revenue loss of N2.3 trillion as a result of oil theft,” he added.
He, therefore, urged the Senate to carry out a holistic investigation into the activities of the oil thieves and their collaborators in the security forces.
Senator Abdulfatai Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, Oyo State, in his contribution, called for punitive measures to combat oil bunkering.
He said, “We carry out investigations every year but in the end, nothing has come out of it. We need to review our laws and take punitive measures against oil thieves.”
Similarly, Senator Adams Oshiomhole (APC, Edo) said oil theft was an organised crime involving the bunkers and the security operatives.
This, he said, explained why many security agents lobbied their superiors to be posted to the oil-producing communities.
Consequently, the Senate instructed its committees on Petroleum Resources (Upstream, Downstream, and Gas), host communities, and Niger Delta Affairs to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the activities of security forces, militia groups, local residents, oil company personnel, and any individual or entity suspected of employing advanced methods to illicitly obtain resources from oil facilities.
In his remarks, Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, said oil theft had impacted negatively on the country’s oil production capacity despite its growing population.
He asked the committees to carry out a thorough probe and report back to the Senate in six weeks.