Contrary to claims by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited that oil bunkering started 20 years ago, the crimes had been on for more than five decades, Niger Delta leader and First Republic Federal Commissioner for Information, Edwin Clark, clarified on Tuesday.
While advising the Federal Government to institute a judicial inquiry to investigate the criminal act of oil theft, the nonagenarian blamed government cartels and appealed that jobs should be provided for the teeming unemployed youths.
He said, “Crude oil theft is definitely part of the universal corruption that is killing Nigeria.
“The Federal and State Governments do not seriously tackle the issue of eradication of corruption in our country. The stealing is not only done through pipelines; both onshore and under water, and even the oil terminals where the export of crude oil is carried out.
“The investigation to this matter must be full, open and comprehensive, if there is sincerity to unravel what is going on.”
He also suggested that modular refineries should be built to replace the illegal refineries being currently operated and which do not only affect the economy of the country but also devastating the Niger Delta environment.
Clark made the observations during a press conference which held in Abuja titled, “A call for judicial inquiry into the criminal act of oil theft now sabotaging our national economy.”
He said, “Although, the NNPCL think these have been going on in the past 20 years, some of us have always insisted that this oil theft has been going on for much longer, for about 50 years. I am therefore using this opportunity, to again, appeal to my fellow Nigerians who have taken over the ownership and management of the oil industries in the Niger Delta, the NNPCL in particular, to employ our youths into the various department of the oil industries, and not to make them beggars in their own home.
“The unity of Nigeria can only be kept if the citizens are all equal, and every body had the opportunity to climb to the highest office in his/her country. I also want to use this medium to commend Chief Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo), and his company, Tantita Securities Limited, for this huge discovery and exposure of such criminal act against the state. It definitely has proved that the award of the surveillance contract to him, was not misplaced.
“Finally, I want to advise the Federal Government to institute a judicial inquiry to investigate this criminal act of oil theft. And also, to once again, appeal that jobs should be provided for the teeming unemployed youths; modular refineries should be built to replace the illegal refineries being currently operated, and which do not only affect the economy of the country, but is also devastating the Niger Delta environment.
“The international oil companies should be directed, once again, this time with sincerity of purpose, to relocate their operational headquarters to the Niger Delta region, if there is a genuine desire to end this menace.”
The elder statesman was reacting to the recent discovery of a large scale and sophisticated oil theft machinery going on at the deep swamps at Yokri, close to the Forcados terminal.
According to reports, high powered technological engineering expertise is applied to steal crude oil from the Forcados line, and transported through a four-kilometre pipeline to a platform in the sea, which belongs to the NNPCL, and its partners.
The report also stated that as much as 200 barrels of crude oil were being stolen from there every day, and that this has been going on since 2014.
According to NNPCL, this is part of the 470 thousand barrels of crude oil that is being lost every month, amounting to $700 million.
But Clark said the crime had been on since 1972.
He said, “In retrospect, my visit to Forcados oil terminal in the company of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, then as Federal Commissioner of Finance in 1972, while I was the Commissioner for Finance of Mid-West State, was quite revealing. During that visit, we clearly observed that there was no proper accounts or records of what is been exported through the Forcados terminal.
“The news that there is an illicit four kilometers pipeline, through which crude oil is being siphoned, goes to confirm what I have always said over the years, and what the leaders of the Niger Delta have been shouting about, that the issue of oil theft is being perpetuated by some mafia-like groups, with the connivance of some people in the oil industry, using sophisticated engineering methods to carry out their nefarious act.
“Even, more disturbing is that these activities have been going on over the years under the watchful eyes of the military and security personnel; security personnel who are supposed to be protecting these oil pipelines with the large numbers of gun boats to patrol the area, are unfortunately alleged to be involved in these criminal acts.
“The host communities, from where these oil explorations are carried out, but who are victims of the activities, since they cannot dictate to the oil companies and security officials, have always raised the alarm that the quantum of oil theft going on, is nothing compared to what the artisanal refinery operators are doing. What is going on, is a sophisticated criminal act, carried out by a syndicate.
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