‘Tackling poverty in oil communities’ll reduce theft’

The Federal Government has been advised to adopt a multi-facet approach, including implementing poverty- mitigating developmental programmes in the oil communities, in order to reduce huge revenue and other socio-economic costs Nigeria is bearing on the increasing menace of oil thefts in the Niger Delta region.

In addition, the government was also urged to take the battle of the economic sabotage to the international community by discouraging, through diplomatic means, demands for bunkered crude oil and associated products by foreign buyers who are willing collaborators in the illegal crude oil thefts in Nigerian shores.

Giving the advice in response to National Mirror’s enquiries on how oil thefts have continued to undermine efforts to reduce deficits in federal budgets, a public policy analyst and civil society chieftain, Dauda Garuba, Nigeria Programme Coordinator for US-based Revenue Watch Institute, believed community-based programmes that would link the oil communities with the oil business were needed to protect the oil wells and pipelines from vandalism.

Dauda, who lamented that phenomenon of oil theft and illegal bunkering posed one of the greatest challenges to the survival of contemporary Nigeria, pointed out that besides the environmental impacts associated with the practice, the phenomenon, along with those induced by violent conflicts in the Niger Delta, cost Nigeria an estimated loss of about $37.5 billion between 1999 and 2012.

This excludes most recent official record of the Nigerian government’s loss to oil theft and illegal bunkering is put at 400,000 barrels per day. He said: “As much as I have always contested the figures of oil theft and illegal bunkering, arguing that they are not premised on any empirically verifiable statistics of Nigeria’s oil production, they are nevertheless mindboggling.

“Preventing such a huge loss can really help to minimize the recurring deficits in federal budgets and also possibly have trickle down effects to states and local governments whose budgets are also largely tied to federal allocations and statutory disbursements.

“It is against the backdrop of the above that the fight against oil theft and illegal bunkering requires a multifaceted approach that takes on board all stakeholders and governments at all levels. It is a fight that should be elevated beyond the present practice of award of pipeline surveillance contracts to selected ex-militants which has not worked, but only increased the loss”, Garuba added.

The civil activist advised the government to connect communities to oil pipelines by pursuing genuine community development programmes to demonstrate that oil is working for the communities since at the moment, many oil bearing communities do not see the difference in who takes the oil; the government and the thieves.

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