Every year, Nigeria’s foreign reserve keeps depleting due to shortfall in oil production caused primarily by unwholesome acts of criminals operating under different names and disguising as patriotic human beings.
It is an open secret that today in Nigeria, there are many illegal oil refineries doting the Niger Delta region where stolen crude oil are being refined locally. This economic sabotage, currently on a high scale, has affected virtually all aspects of the economy. The revenue accruing to the three tiers of government from the federation account keeps shrinking. No thanks to these oil thieves and the wobbling global oil market. The result is that many states, including the federal government now embark on external borrowing to execute major projects.
The rate at which oil pipelines are being vandalised on a daily basis, is condemnable. These economic saboteurs have continued to pillage Nigeria’s commonwealth by breaking oil pipelines, thus pilfering the people’s collective patrimony.
No doubt, oil is the mainstay and live-wire of Nigeria’s economy. But it is indeed a sad commentary that the country losses billions of dollars yearly to oil thefts. The sector accounts for about 90 percent of the nation’s overall revenue. Oil thefts are certainly assuming a debilitating dimension and posing a real threat to the socio-economic well-being of Nigerians. Unfortunately, Nigeria loses about N921bn to oil thefts annually; this amount alone can solve some of the infrastructural problems that the country is currently being faced with.
In 2013, Nigeria lost about 300,000 barrels per day to oil thieves, which translates to over $1bn (more than N160bn) per month.
Again, last year, Nigeria lost a whopping N1.29tn in revenue to industrial scale theft of crude oil and production shut-downs. The colossal loss was based on the average daily volume of 215,000 barrels estimated at $21.5mn (about N1.3bn) at $100 barrel.
We are therefore compelled to ask: why is oil theft rife in Nigeria? Who are the influential people bankrolling these oil thieves? Are there no punitive measures on ground to discourage the illicit business? What is the fate of those caught vandalising oil pipelines?
It is quite unfortunate that the country keeps losing so much revenue to system leakages and deferred productions, largely due to pipeline vandalism. Perhaps, this is why Nigeria was at a stage, listed as a leading country in oil theft among oil producing nations in the world. It is disheartening that oil theft has become a thriving and well organised crime that has continued unabated.
Besides losing millions of dollars to these unwholesome acts, illegal oil refineries have caused serious health implications to the local inhabitants. Consequently, pollution, gas flaring and fire outbreaks have combined to devastate the Ecosystem.
Time is rife for the government to come up with drastic measures against oil thieves and those sabotaging the main stay of our economy. The measures should aim at safeguarding oil pipelines and other government installations nationwide. It has come to a point where government should boldly step in and end this brazen oil act once and for all. The incoming Buhari administration should summon the political will to deal decisively with the matter. In addition, government should install protective devices around these oil pipelines that could electrocute these vandals.
As oil theft has become a global phenomenon, it is imperative for Nigeria to seek foreign assistance in fighting the oil barons sponsoring the illicit business. The problems of oil theft, illegal oil bunkering and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea are matters that deserve the collaboration of West African countries and the international community to tackle headlong.
We therefore call on the National Assembly to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB before the 7th National Assembly winds up. There is no doubt that the passage and effective implementation of the bill will check-mate all manners of illicit businesses in the oil sector.