By Jerry Daks

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas on Thursday said that the country lost about $46 billion (N16.25 trillion) to crude oil theft between 2009 and 2020.

The Speaker who spoke while inaugurating the ad hoc committee to investigate crude oil theft and loss of revenue said the menace of crude oil theft has drastically hampered the growth of the country’s oil production, with Nigeria losing between 5 to 30 percent of daily crude oil production.

He however expressed shock that critical agencies in the oil and gas sector such as the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited, Nigeria Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, and Ministry of Petroleum Resources among others failed to honour the invitation of the committee.

Abbas said the Heads of the agencies are not doing the nation any good by refusing to appear before the parliament to answer questions on the critical aspect of the economy.

Represented by the Chairman of the House Committee on Petroleum Upstream, Hon. Al Hassan Ado Doguwa, the Speaker said if decisive action was not taken to address the issue, the country may be thrown into a deeper fiscal crisis due to dwindling revenue from the oil and gas sector.

Quoting data from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the Speaker said Nigeria’s oil production declined from 2.51 million barrels per day in 2005 to 1.77 million barrels per day in 2020.

He said “NEITI reports also show that 619 million barrels of crude valued at $46 billion were stolen in the period 2009-2020”, adding that “Nigeria has continually failed to meet its daily production quota as set by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).”

Abbas explained further that “recently, 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.”

While saying that the nation faces a major fiscal crisis, the Speaker said that global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has continued to cast a cloud of uncertainty on the oil and gas industry in the country.

He said “While the average international price for Brent crude oil has hovered slightly above the set benchmark price since January, Nigeria’s daily oil production has performed poorly due to a number of reasons.

“It is common knowledge that investment in the oil and gas sector has declined in the past few years owing to global financing constraints and the overall response to energy transition considerations.

“However, we must agree that the greatest challenge to optimizing crude oil production in Nigeria is the grand scale oil theft that has plagued the sector for the past 2 decades.

Speaker Abbas said the House is aware of several efforts by past – administrations to address the menace of crude oil theft with a number of task forces, special committees, and investigative panels set up in the past, each with a wide range of findings and recommendations.

He said “NEITI provides yearly updates on the amount of crude oil stolen or lost through sabotage. Yet, the menace of oil theft has continued unabated despite the enormous resources already committed to addressing it.”

In his remark, the Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Alhassa Usman Rumrum, said the volume of losses occasioned by oil theft in the country and its associated impact on the economy is completely unacceptable and cannot be tolerated by any government that sincerely loves its citizens.

He said “The way and manner this act of sabotage and breach on our national security and sovereignty is carried out daily makes a caricature of our pride as a nation and even a mockery of the acclaimed status of our armed forces.

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

“It is in the light of these that the House constituted this committee and is determined to bring this ugly trend to an end otherwise there may be no future for our remaining children who have not yet “Japa” to other countries in search of survival.

“To members of the armed forces/security agencies, all Nigerians in the various states, host communities and even in the diaspora who are involved in this practice, I challenge you all to have a rethink. We have no other country to call our own, let us therefore not push this madness to a point of no return where we may find nowhere to run to.”

While commending the President for the courageous steps so far taken to rebuild the country, Rumrum said “These efforts will be in vain unless we make a resolute statement and send a powerful message through both words and actions, declaring that oil theft and all form of hydrocarbon unaccountability will not be tolerated under this administration.

“Only then can our people confidently and joyfully embrace a renewed sense of hope and purpose”.

Also speaking, a representative of the Nigeria Police Force, Mr Alabi Abiodun, said the police have put in place a task force to assist other security agencies in arresting those attacking oil facilities.

In addressing the menace, Abiodun said perpetrators of the act should be handed over to the Nigerian police to prosecute them effectively.

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