Crude oil theft: NSA inaugurates 11-man special investigative panel, says Nigeria may lose $23 billion in 2023

Oredola Adeola

Major General Babagana Monguno, National Security Adviser, (NSA)  has warned that Nigeria is likely to lose $23 billion in revenue in 2023, if the current spate of crude oil theft/pipeline vandalism in the country is not curtailed.

The NSA suggested this during the inauguration of 11 man Special Investigative Panel on crude oil theft/losses in Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja.

The panel is chaired by retired Maj.-Gen. Barry Ndiomu, Interim Administrator, Presidential Amnesty Programme, while Mr. David Attah was selected as the Secretary, with other members consisting of seasoned administrators and retired top military and police officers as members.

According to him, Nigeria currently produces one million barrels of crude oil per day despite the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) production quota set for Nigeria.

He warned that if the situation is left unaddressed the country may be finding it difficult to raise revenue to fund its budget.

While charging the members of the committee to come up with a viable solution to the crisis, he noted that the escalation of acts of vandalism and theft of crude oil had led to a significant decline in production, with an associated impact on revenue.

According to him, the enormous losses are caused mainly by oil theft, orchestrated by unscrupulous elements.

The NSA also disclosed that recent interventions by the security agencies had revealed massive illicit platforms of stealing ranging from marine evacuations via Vessels, and load-outs from illegal operations platforms.

He said, “Government has been briefed on the dwindling economic fortunes including, inability to replenish foreign reserves and reduction in revenue thereby, affecting accruals into the Federation Account.

“With the scale of the theft and losses and the alleged complicity of regulatory agencies/officials and security personnel as well as the involvement of international collaborators, the enterprise is deeply entrenched and would be extremely, difficult to exterminate without very stern and decisive action by Government.

“The menace of oil theft/losses is completely unacceptable, considering its attendant impact on the economy, national development and security.

“It is an affront on Government and its institutions, which must be tackled without further delay.

“It is in this connection that Government worried by the ugly trend, among other things, directed the setting up of a Special Investigative Panel on Oil Theft/Losses in Nigeria to investigate all aspects of crude oil theft, identify the culprits and submit its Report for necessary action,” he said.

Monguno said the panel was expected to investigate oil theft/losses in all its ramifications and propose a wide-ranging array of implementable recommendations to enable this Administration to take decisive action to end the criminal enterprise within the shortest possible time.

He said members were appointed based on their proven integrity, track record of service, competence and dedication to the national course.

He urged them to work with a view to unravelling individuals and groups perpetrating the national economic crime, no matter how highly placed they might be.

The Terms of Reference (ToRs), according to NSA, are to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the illegal insertion into the Trans-Escravos Pipeline (TEP) around the Yokri area in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State

“They are to establish the ramifications of crude oil theft/losses in Nigeria; ascertain the causative factors immediate and remote, of crude oil/theft/losses in the country and ascertain the extent of crude oil theft/losses in the country.

“With the widest possible amplitude, identify persons/entities whether public, private or foreign, involved in the criminal enterprise and establish the level of culpability of identified persons/entities in the enterprise.

“The panel is to also examine the specific roles of regulatory agencies; security agencies, tiers/arms of government and International Oil Companies (IOCs) in aiding and abetting the criminal enterprise.

“They are to also assess the efficacy of security architecture/arrangement in tackling crude oil theft/losses and associated petroleum products and recommend appropriate commensurate and sufficiently, deterrent sanctions on all those culpable,” he said.

Monguno also tasked the panel to recommend steps/procedures/processes to be taken by Government to eliminate the enterprise in the industry to prevent future occurrence; and make any other recommendations on any other issue incidental to the terms of reference.

He said the panel was expected to commence its assignment with immediate effect and to conclude as well as submit its report on or before Feb. 21, 2023.

The Permanent Secretary, Special Services, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Aliyu Yerro, said the menace of crude oil theft had greatly impacted the nation’s revenue growth.

Yerro said the challenge had necessitated the setting up of the panel, adding that in spite of the huge amount of money spent by government to secure its maritime domain.

He said expressed confidence that the panel had the capacity to proffer solution to the issue of crude oil theft in the country.

The Chairman of the Panel, retired Maj.-Gen. Barry Ndiomu, said the expertise of each individual on the panel was sufficient to help them fulfil the objectives of setting up the panel.

He said the panel would leave no stone unturned by digging deep to unravel not only the incidences of oil theft/losses but, pre-disposition and causative factors as well as groups and individuals responsible for the criminal enterprise.

“We shall work hard to make you proud not least, for the confidence reposed on us,” he said.