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Published On: Fri, Dec 13th, 2013

Tambuwal Drops Another Bombshell, Says FG is Shielding Oil Thieves

Speaker, House of Representative, Hon Aminu Tambuwal


LAGOS DECEMBER 13RD (URHOBOTODAY)-Two days after accusing the Jonathan administration of lacking sincerity in the fight against corruption , Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, yesterday fired another salvo against the Federal Government , alleging that its officials were shielding oil thieves.
Tambuwal spoke at the inauguration of House adhoc Committee on Oil Theft. Its Chairman, Mr Bashir Adamu, said Nigeria has recorded a loss of over N6trillion to oil theft since independence.
He said “The oil and gas industry accounts for about two-thirds of government revenue and more than 90% of export earnings in Nigeria. Illegal bunkering has caused Nigeria to lose an estimated $5billion (N780 billion) yearly, amounting to $400 billion since Nigeria’s independence.
“Statistics show that a total of 350,000 barrels per day was lost to illegal bunkering in 2012, representing an increase of 45% over the figure of 2011, and 67% over that of 2010, while the trend for 2013 is even more alarming.
“Unless the government summons the will to fight the menace, the situation will further worsen the country’s economic woes”, he said.
Decrying the level of oil theft, Tambuwal, in his speech , stated that “no country can endure such blatant rape of its resources by a few criminals who seem to grow bolder by the day. And no self-respecting parliament can watch this kind of gross sabotage and not intervene.
“We must therefore, end the kind of impunity that makes people think that our nation is a lawless place where people can get away with anything. We are here to prove that this nation has the ability to make things right and to make people pay for their crimes.
“We cannot begin to quantify the full economic and political damage that the activities of oil vandals have caused. For a nation that needs all the resources it can get to take care of its growing population of angry poor youth, this kind of rapacious theft of the common wealth is nothing short of a disaster”, Tambuwal said.
“So long as we allow these oil bunkerers to remain in business, so long will our people go without the basic needs of life. Since oil is our main source of wealth as a nation, we must do everything possible to defend the integrity of the process of oil production and sale in the international market.
“We need to put in place the right kind of legislation to improve the monitoring of on-shore and off-shore areas to discourage vandalism.
“We need to establish a robust regulatory framework to plug all loopholes through which all sorts of official and unofficial corruption thrive in the oil sector”, the Speaker noted.
He urged his colleagues that “ this is a very complicated and very sophisticated business and it will be foolish to think of the culprits in terms of area boys who break pipelines.
“We must realise that without the protection of highly-placed people, without the connivance of officials and experts in the sector, the activity of illegal bunkering would have been curtailed long ago. Therefore, we cannot succeed unless we ensure that the criminal groups involved in oil theft and the so-called “investors” or “godfathers” who are backing them are correctly identified and exposed”, he said.
“We cannot succeed unless the House can investigate the entire process of operation – from pipeline rupture through to refinery end-users, and put forward sanctions that can be brought against those involved, however highly placed. This committee needs to demonstrate the adverse impact of oil theft on Federal Government revenues and the destruction of oil asset value for lease-holders in the Niger Delta”, Tambuwal noted.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for instance, should be made to take a closer look at those behind the transportation and purchase of stolen oil – and act in conjunction with other international law enforcement agencies for criminal prosecution under the procedure of Mutual Legal Assistance.
“I urge members of this committee to take another look at the report by the Royal Institute for International Affairs which alleged that Nigeria’s oil was being stolen not just from pipelines, but also from tank farms, export terminals, refinery storage, ports and even wellheads.
“The rising level of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism particularly in the Niger Delta region has reached and assumed higher dimensions.
“The ugly development has made operators in the Nigeria oil and gas Industry one of the most expensive in the world.
“Attacks on production facilities have led to several shut-downs and declaration of force majeure by the international oil companies (lOCs), ultimately resulting in loss of revenue to the government.
“In April 2013, oil giant Shell Petroleum Development Company, shut down the 150,000bpd Nembe Creek oil pipeline due to the urgent need to clear away illegal connections.”
“Cooperation between the government and Private Sector is vital to achieving effective maritime security and prevent crude oil theft within the nation’s maritime domain.
“The joint effort with other government agencies is aimed at tackling the nefarious activities of sea pirates who threaten the country’s over $600 million-worth fishing industry, leading to loss of over N2 trillion annually to oil thieves.
“Government should beam its searchlight on all the Security Agencies in the country in a bid to fish out those who perpetrate the illicit trade, which has now reached an industrial scale.”
On what the probe panel will focus on , Basir said: “We intend to consult with all relevant stakeholders in the oil and gas sector of the economy via a five-day public hearing. Some critical issues which will be addressed in the course of the investigation include the following:
• To determine how deep pipelines are buried and if they are accessible to oil
thieves.
• Determine how stolen crude oil is transported,
• Identify the owners of illegal vessels,
• Ascertain the status of impounded vessels and recommend the confiscation
of barges used for illegal bunkering,
• Discuss the challenges faced by the organizations involved in terms of
securing our pipelines and tackling illegal bunkering, and
• Determine the roles of the various organizations in tackling illegal bunkering.
• Ascertain countries aiding and abetting the crude oil criminals.
•Recommend preventive measures and lasting solutions to the menace.
According to this report, “officials and private actors disguise theft through manipulation of meters and shipping documents.
“Proceeds are laundered through world financial centres and used to buy assets in and outside Nigeria, polluting markets and financial institutions overseas, and creating reputational, political and legal hazards. Obviously, oil theft in our country has now reached an industrial scale and we need the concerted efforts of all stakeholders who must be invited and heard at a scheduled five-day public hearing.
“There is also no doubt that we must try as much as possible to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), as soon as possible”, he said.
Source: The Sun

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