Oil theft: Ex-foreign ministers, diplomats ask Buhari to go after perpetrators

A FORUM of former Nigerian foreign affairs ministers and diplomats under the aegis of the Academy of International Affairs has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to bring perpetrators of oil theft in the country to book.

The Academy made the demand in a statement issued by its president and former minister of external affairs Bolaji Akinyemi, on Monday.

The former ministers and diplomats called on Buhari to set up a judicial board of inquiry to address the root cause of the crude oil theft and fuel subsidy, and lamented that the subsidy regime had become an embarrassing scandal for the country.

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They justified the institution of the judicial commission of inquiry on the need “to unearth the causes of oil thefts, prosecute the culprits and put an end to the scandals to rekindle Nigeria’s enviable position in the world oil market and provide substantial revenues for the country”.

According to the group, it was disheartening to learn that illegal “oil bunkering has been going on for a long time under the watch of government officials, including many of the security personnel charged with guarding the most vital source of revenue earnings of this country”.

They described as a big shame the Federal Government’s decision to award a pipeline surveillance contract to Tantita Security Services Limited, a private company owned by the former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Government Ekpemupolo, (a.k.a Tompolo).

The Academy noted that it was an exercise in futility “to ask some of those suspects involved in this scandal to go round in search of illegal pipelines and oil criminals,” as they would only present a wishy-washy report that would absolve them from any blame.

The Academy further alleged that some foreign oil companies whose pipelines had been tapped and vandalised between their production fields and export terminals had also been involved in the oil scandals.

The international affairs experts claimed that some oil multinationals often connived with the criminals by keeping mute as Nigerian oil “is being illegally bunkered and shipped away for sale in the international market: the proceeds of which are laundered in international financial institutions and banks, particularly in tax-free havens”.

The ex-ministers and diplomats cited investigations carried out by reputable organisations, including the report of the Justice Ayo Irikefe Tribunal of Inquiry of 1978/79 on the loss of billions of oil revenues, to support their claims.

The Academy observed that Nigeria, which had been enjoying comfortable OPEC quotas of about two million barrels per day of crude oil supplies to the world market, had now been reduced to less than one million barrels per day, quite below its current OPEC quota.

According to the Academy, the development was as a result of crude oil theft.

The group further observed that the most troubling aspect of the situation was that despite the presence of armed security personnel, including the army, navy, police, security and civil defence, customs and others, apart from the NNPC, oil theft had been going on with reckless abandon.

The Academy lamented the impact of the oil theft on the country’s diplomatic and foreign relations, which it claimed, had culminated in the closure of diplomatic missions abroad, especially at the time Nigeria’s foreign reserves dwindled.



    Noting that the country’s diplomatic missions abroad are being financed in foreign currencies, the Academy added: “Unfortunately, each time our foreign reserves dwindled, there is always the misguided tendency to shut down some of our diplomatic missions.

    “This is exemplified by the recent actions of the federal government, which has just set up another committee to consider reducing the number of diplomatic missions abroad.

    “Such actions are counterproductive to promoting and projecting our national interest, impede our voice from being effectively heard globally, and hamper our quest to become permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

    “There are many sources of leakages in the economy such as financial frauds by certain government officials, in addition to oil thefts and illegal bunkering that should be tackled frontally instead of focusing on reducing, instead of strengthening, our diplomatic missions abroad.”

    You can reach out to me on Twitter via: vincent_ufuoma

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