Mele Kyari, group managing director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, has called for the speedy establishment of a special court to try cases of oil theft.
Kyari spoke on Thursday when he appeared before the house of representatives committee on petroleum resources upstream.
The committee is investigating the crude oil production situation, vandalism, oil theft and security measures needed to restore production and improve revenue.
Nigeria has had low output and declining revenue and unable to capitalise on increased oil prices.
The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) had recently said the country loses more than 115,000 barrels per day to oil theft and vandalism.
Oil producers in Nigeria had also decried the illegal activities of oil vandals, saying these oil bunkers cashed in ‘petrodollars’ while Nigeria is bedevilled by low production.
According to Kyari, the country’s oil theft situation has hampered the oil sector’s development, which should have been aided by the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
“It is a difficult circumstance for the industry and that is why despite the good intention and the provisions of the PIA — no one will produce oil and recovers zero income and put the money back into the business. That is why investments are very weak despite the good physical environment that the PIA has brought,” he said.
“I have had the privilege to answer questions around investment climate in very many international platforms. And they will tell you: ‘If we bring our money how are you sure they will not steal the oil’.
“It is very difficult to give a straight answer. Of course, what we are doing now will contain it and will bring stability back with all the effort of all of us.”
“I’m not sure we are short of legislation. It is life imprisonment for the attack on these facilities so there are laws to support these. What we need to do is to increase the advocacy so that the legal process gets its course, and prosecutions are done timely.
“I would recommend that we set up a special court for this so that such cases would be quickly dealt with.
“It is not just the small persons that you see at those locations that are prosecuted. We know that to sell crude oil on the international market it is not the business of the ordinary people that you see in these illegal refinery settings.
“It is an elitist business and we must have the courage to set up a very independent special court to try cases related to these. Otherwise the impact today it has on our overall economic outlook, our ability to improve foreign exchange and also in terms of energy security for this country is threatened by very few people. Clearly, they are very few if you look at the scale of what is going on.”
Kyari said the regulatory and security agencies are collaborating to ensure that the menace is contained.
“It is not beyond us. I’m very confident that the leadership being given by the chief of defence staff alongside his service chiefs is paying off. We will have some sanity and we are also working on sustainability,” he added.