Curbing Oil Theft: For Nigeria’s 10th National Assembly, which way forward?

Elizabeth AtimeSeptember 27, 202311 min

In light of Nigeria’s dwindling revenue and recent revelations from the 2021 Oil and Gas Report of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), how determined is the National Assembly to tackle the menace of oil theft? Is there a headway soon?

 

 

 

That crude oil is Nigeria’s major source of revenue is a fact, as it accounts for ninety-five per cent (95%) of the country’s foreign exchange earnings, while eighty per cent (80%) of its annual budgeted revenue is also dependent on it.

Nigeria ranks the third largest producer of crude oil in Africa, with an output of 1.249 million barrels per day (BPD), according to the latest 2023 report by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Similarly, Nigeria’s revenue to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio is below 5%, which is rated among the five lowest countries in the world.

It is reported that about 700 million dollars worth of crude oil is lost to oil theft monthly in Nigeria. Consequently, the menace of crude oil theft in Nigeria continues to inflict adverse effects on its economy and national security over the years. Even worse is the fact that the stolen crude is often refined locally or sold in the black market, robbing the country of vital revenue that could be invested in infrastructural development and other social welfare programmes.

In fact, a 2022 report by the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI), revealed that about 619.7 million barrels of crude oil, valued at $46.16 billion have been stolen in the last 12 years without much being done to curb the menace. Additionally, data from NEITI shows Nigeria’s oil production declined from 2.51 million barrels per day in 2005 to 1.77 million barrels per day in 2020, adding that Nigeria has continually failed to meet its daily production quota as set by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

“Nigeria’s OPEC quota was reduced from 1.742 million barrels per day to 1.38 million barrels per day. Yet, the country is still struggling to meet this quota as daily production output was 1.184 million barrels per day and 1.249 million barrels per day in May and June 2023, respectively.

On average, current daily production output is a far cry from the budget assumption of 1.69 million per day. The implication is clearly manifest in the economic crisis that the country is facing,” the report stated. This unlawful activity usually involves the illegal extraction and smuggling of crude oil, vandalisation of pipelines, and bunkering, resulting in significant revenue losses for the country and environmental degradation.

 

READ ALSO: Crude Oil Theft: Nigeria lost $46 billion in 11 years – Abbas

 

As an arm of government saddled with the responsibility of checkmating and overseeing Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government, the National Assembly can be said not to have done enough to tackle the issue of oil theft. It is important to note, however, that previous Assemblies have carried out probes on oil theft and come up with recommendations and resolutions, which are usually never implemented, leading to wastage of resources.

One such major probe that the Ninth House of Representatives carried out before it finally wound down was by the “House Adhoc Committee on the illegal sale of Stolen 48 million barrels of Nigeria’s crude oil in China.” Nigeria is said to have lost $2.4 billion in revenue to that transaction.

Chaired by Hon. Mark Gbillah, the Committee, upon the submission of its report on 7th June 2023 recommended that the 10th National Assembly consider the passage of a comprehensive Whistleblower Act as a priority in its legislative agenda. It noted that this will be of immense benefit to the country in the fight against corruption and will enhance Nigeria’s status in the global anti-corruption index. Parts of the recommendations include:

(i) The Committee recommends a further detailed investigation by the 10th assembly into the whistleblower and other recoveries made by the federal government, including utilisation of these funds and evidence of same.

(ii) The Committee recommends that the federal government engage with the Indian government diplomatically to ensure the amicable resolution of the matter of the Sandesara brothers to avoid unnecessary friction in the

(iii) A detailed forensic investigation should be carried out by the related House committee on the Central Bank of Nigeria’s payment of N16,250,000,000.00 (Sixteen Billion, Two Hundred and Fifty Million Naira) into each of the UBA accounts of Bizplus Consulting Services Limited and GSCL Consulting Services Limited.

 

READ ALSO: Oil Theft: “Like Malami, respect separation of powers” – Reps to Finance Minister

 

It could be recalled that the 10th House of Representatives, upon inauguration, had also resolved to investigate the alleged theft of crude oil and the attendant loss of revenue in the nation’s oil and gas sector.

Benue lawmaker, Rep. Philip Agbese (APC) in July, moved a motion on the ‘Need to investigate Crude Oil Theft and loss of revenue accrued from the Oil and Gas Sector in Nigeria.’ He, however, warned that blaming security agencies for oil theft would not be tolerated, adding that stakeholders in the oil sectors like Chevron, Shell, and host communities, among others, should be held to account as well.

The federal legislator further stated that the challenges confronting the oil sector and probable solutions will be discussed and called on stakeholders to suggest modalities and ways to stop or minimise theft in the oil sector. Agbese anchored his motion on recent reports of loss of trillions of naira from crude oil theft as well as loss of revenue from gas exploration in the land.

He noted that “According to reports, about 40 percent of crude oil loss is due to inaccuracies in measurement, and theft as metering errors continue to occur as a result of poor maintenance of metering facilities, thus resulting to lack of transparency in hydrocarbon accounting.” The lawmaker further lamented the recent reports, which revealed that in 2021 alone, Nigeria lost $4 billion to oil theft at the rate of 200,000 barrels per day, and the figures have risen since then.

“We are also concerned that security agencies of the Federal Government are allegedly complicit and largely responsible for facilitating most of the oil theft in the Niger Delta. The Nigerian Military has been accused several times of being behind 99 per cent of oil theft and despite promises to conduct proper investigations, no substantial action has been taken by the Federal Government to address the matters raised.”

He described it as worrisome “that in spite of the huge funds appropriated to adequately equip Nigeria’s security and intelligence agencies, their performance in terms of curbing oil theft has been abysmal. Further disturbed that despite the enormous resources at the disposal of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, they have, in active connivance with national and multinational oil and gas companies, allegedly continued to sabotage every effort to ensure an effective running of metering facilities at the well heads, flow stations, loading platforms,” his motion stated.

 

READ ALSO: Yet again, Reps to investigate oil theft and attendant revenue loss

 

Chairman of the House Ad-hoc Committee, Rep. Kabiru Alhassan Rurum (NNPP, Kano), while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), noted that oil remains the major source of revenue for the country, lamenting that the problem of oil theft has continued to go from bad to worse daily.

In view of that, he said the committee’s task is to expose persons or groups of persons behind the theft of oil in the country.

“The purpose of the committee is to reveal who and who are the architects of what is going on in the area of crude oil theft. We need to identify the culprits. This is the purpose of the investigation, and everybody, including critical stakeholders, should come and tell us their side of the story,” he told the press.

Similarly, the Nigerian 10th Senate also initiated a probe into oil theft on the 25 of July, 2023 following a motion brought by Senator Ned Nwoko (Delta North, PDP) titled ‘Need to Investigate the Incessant and Nefarious Acts of Crude Oil Thefts in the Niger Delta and the Actors.’ He noted that Nigeria is largely dependent on crude oil for its economic growth and development and that according to the National Bureau of Statistics, the oil sector represents 6.33% of the Nation’s GDP, which translates to $45.6 billion in 2022.

Adding that Nigeria’s oil sector provides jobs for millions of Nigerian citizens, it also provides for 70% of its budget financing, while oil and gas accounted for 90% of export income and 85% of government revenue in the first quarter of 2022.

According to him, “data which has been reported over the years even till date, have shown that pipeline vandalism, illegal oil bunkering, oil theft, illegal oil refining has brought Nigeria into serious socio-economic crisis, and this remains an intractable challenge to the Nigerian oil-dependent economy.

 

READ ALSO: Oil Theft: Reps vow to unveil identities of perpetrators

 

He observed that the present efforts of the Joint Task Force of the Nigerian military, such as “Operation Delta Safe,” “Operation Dakartada Barawo,” as well as other Operations in the Niger Delta region, have resulted in an increase in oil production to 1.51 million barrels per day (bpd) in the first quarter of 2023. This, he noted, was from 1.49 million barrels per day recorded in the same quarter of 2022 and also higher than the fourth quarter of 2022 production volume of 1.34 million barrels per day.

“Disturbed that, despite the good efforts of some of the military personnel in curbing oil thefts in the Niger Delta region, there are bad eggs among the military who work in connivance with relevant opportunistic oil industry operators to sabotage the economy.

Also informed that oil thefts in Nigeria are enhanced by the pragmatic cooperation between security forces, militia organizations, the local population and oil company employees who use various sophisticated methods to steal from oil facilities that are stationed within the country,” his motion read.

Senator Nwoko further recounted that there have been accusations and counter-accusations of oil thefts, illegal oil bunkering, illegal oil refining and other sundry crimes in the Niger Delta region between the military and the local militia, which shows the high level of sabotage and destruction of our economic mainstay.

“Also aware that it was reported in 2022 that Nigeria lost an average of 437, 000 barrels of crude oil a day, worth $23 Million to criminal entities, and between March, 2022 to March, 2023, Nigeria also lost 65,700, 000 barrels of crude oil at $83 Dollar per barrel, worth N2.3 Trillion revenues to oil theft.”

The Senate accordingly resolved to:(i) Constitute an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the activities of Security Agencies, militia organisations, the local population, oil company employees and any person or body who uses various sophisticated methods to steal from oil facilities that are stationed within the country; and consider ways and consider ways of officially engaging Modular and Illegal Refinery Operators.

(ii) Deploy modern technologies like aerial drones to secure oil and gas facilities in order to curb oil thefts and buffer the revenue profile of the country.

 

READ ALSO: GIFT: CSOs decry Nigeria’s huge debt, deepen advocacy for fiscal reforms 

As both chambers of the National Assembly return for legislative business this week, there are a couple of questions awaiting response from the lawmakers.

Nigerians would be interested in knowing the term of reference for the Adhoc Committee in the House of Representatives, seeing that very little has been heard from the Committee since its last media briefing. How far has the Committee gone, and what is the outcome of its findings?

Importantly, with the numerous revelations from the 2021 Oil and Gas Report of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) released on Monday, 18th September 2023. According to the report, government earned over $23 billion in revenue from the sector in 2021, while there were also cases of unremitted revenue owed to the federation account. What impact are these revelations and more contained in the report likely to have on the report of the House Adhoc Committee?

Will the House and, indeed, the Tenth National Assembly summon the political will to carry on with the probe and eventually expose those behind these unpatriotic actions? What will the Tenth National Assembly be doing differently to curb this high-level corruption, which has eaten deep into the fabric of the country?

Time, they say, will tell, but it must be noted that Nigerians and the international community eagerly await the outcome of the various probes instituted by both chambers of the National Assembly on the menace of oil theft.

 

Elizabeth Atime

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