The persistence of crude oil theft in the Niger Delta region where over 400,000 barrels per day are stolen may threaten world peace and democracy if concerted action is not taken to curb it, Dr. Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, Governor of Delta State, has warned.
Speaking at an African Business Roundtable-organized workshop on combating emerging threats held on the sidelines of the on-going United Nations General Assembly in New York, Uduaghan said with 90 percent of the stolen oil exported, the cash return was enough to empower individuals and organizations engaged in the theft to destabilize democracies in the West African sub-region.
The Delta State Governor who is also the chairman of the Committee on Crude Oil Theft set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria said the growing insurgency by extremist Islamist groups and violence on the civil population may not be unconnected with the huge cash outlay that cannot be traced due to crude oil theft.
He called on the international community to create a platform where stolen crude oil can be tracked and disbursement of proceeds adequately monitored as such funds usually fuel the acquisition of small arms.
He said the balance 10 percent of 400,000 barrels stolen daily is processed locally at the modular refineries spread across the Niger Delta region, noting that the pockets of persons arrested from those locations have only token-effect in combating the scourge.
Extant laws and legislations for prosecuting suspects, Uduaghan said, were grossly inadequate, noting that a strong legal framework needed to be created so that kingpins and promoters of crude oil theft can be prosecuted.
He said his committee has embarked on the sensitization of security agencies on the need for them to be alive to their responsibilities while also encouraging international oil companies (IOCs) to carry out corporate social responsibilities in their areas of operation.
The Governor said IOCs must improve on the technology deployed in the laying of pipelines as the prevailing style of laying them on the surface is no longer acceptable.
As part of his government’s strategy to curb oil theft in Delta State, Uduaghan said communities were being empowered through the programmes put in place by the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC).
The Governor was accompanied on the trip by the state Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chike C. Ogeah; and his Finance counterpart, Mr. Ken Okpara.
Other officials on Uduaghan’s entourage are the state Commissioners for Health, Dr. Joseph Otumara; Water Resources, Dr. Chris Oghenechovwen; Higher Education, Professor Hope Eghagha; and Environment, Chief Frank Omare. Others are the state Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Misan Ukubeyinje; Commissioner for MDGs, Queen Mother Victoria Ikenchuku; Commissioner for Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Mr. Timi Tonye; the governor’s Senior Special Adviser on Foreign Relations who coordinated the UN assessment project, Mr. Oma Djeba; chairman of DESPADEC, Mr. Oritsuwa Kpogho and members of the Nigerian Business community.