Security agencies must eradicate the menace of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta region before May 29, 2023, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
The President gave the order through the Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, while addressing troops of the Joint Task Force, Operation Delta Safe, in Effurum, Delta State and Port Harcourt, Rivers State, respectively, on Thursday.
Buhari said the evils of pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft have devastated the country’s economy and the government can no longer tolerate them.
He said Nigeria can no longer tolerate the activities of these criminals who have, through their criminalities, destabilized the country’s crude oil production in the last couple of years.
“Mr President has mandated us to eradicate crude oil theft by any means before the exit of this administration on May 29, 2023. He has directed that no litre of crude oil should be stolen in the country again, especially in the South South region. He wants crude oil theft completely eliminated by May 29, 2023 as one of the legacies of his government. This is the message from Mr President. We are not where we want to be, but we are happy at what we are seeing,” Sylva told the troops.
Prior to the renewed efforts of the Federal Government in tackling the menace of crude oil theft, the nation’s daily crude oil production capacity was about 900,000 barrels per day.
But the Minister said the scaled up security efforts of the Federal Government has helped to shore up production to about 1.5 million barrels per day.
“I am happy to hear that morale is high here. We were here a few months ago to hand over the mandate of Mr President to you, and that is to ensure that there is zero tolerance for crude oil theft in the region. We want to thank you for what you have done so far. But there is still more to be done for us to achieve 100% success of this assignment,” Sylva said.
“Nigerians have noticed what you are doing. The managers in the oil industry have noticed what you are doing, and indeed the international community have noticed what you are doing. We are happy at the improvement we are seeing in the oil and gas sector in recent times. We have seen the significant improvement, and that’s why we are here, on the mandate of the president, to thank you for what you are doing. He has said there should be no reason why we (Nigerians) should be losing the essential commodity that is the life wire of the country’s economy.
“We are here to ask you to redouble your efforts so that we will be able to tell Nigerians and the President that we have zero tolerance for crude oil theft,” the minister added.
He said when the team visited the region about three months ago on the mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari, the situation was very disturbing.
“Today, we have seen a significant change in the whole thing and we are happy about it. We want to return in another few months to show Nigerians that we have successfully tackled the problem of oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the country,” he said.
While again thanking the combined team of security agencies for their efforts, Sylva urged them not to relent in the feat they have achieved so far, adding that going forward the government would want to have zero tolerance for crude oil theft in the country.
The Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, Mele Kyari, disclosed that the Federal Government had set up a special court to expedite the trials of criminal elements involved in oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta region.
Kyari who also expressed gratitude to the troops for the excellent work they were doing to restore confidence in the integrity of the pipelines, said he was sure that full confidence would be restored in crude oil production in the shortest possible time.
He also expressed confidence in the existing collaboration between security agencies and the private security company contracted by the NNPC Limited in the campaign to restore full confidence in the sector.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor in his remarks urged the troops to remain steadfast in the campaign to stamp out crude oil theft in the country.
Apart from Kyari and Irabor, the minister was accompanied on the visit by the Chief of Naval Staff, Awwal Gambo, Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Gbenga Komolafe and the Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), Farouk Ahmed.
Others were Commander Operation Delta Safe, Aminu Hassan, senior government officials in the oil and gas sector well as top military officers.