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FG to hunt down oil thieves, sponsors

An illegal refinery

The Federal Government has warned that it would no longer condone any form of criminality on Nigeria’s oil and gas facilities and installations, promising to hunt down oil thieves, pipeline vandals, illegal refiners as well as their sponsors.

The Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said this on Wednesday at Bonny Island, Rivers State, while addressing officers of the 146 Battalion and other security agencies represented in the fight against oil theft.

Sylva was on an assessment tour of some illegal refinery sites in the Niger Delta region creek with the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Maj.-Gen. Lucky Irabor, Group Managing Director, NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari, and Chief Executive, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Gbenga Komolafe, and a host of others.

Sylva said President Muhammadu Buhari had directed that the illegal activities must stop and had called for an assessment of the devastation occasioned by the activities of the criminals.

Addressing officers of the 146 Battalion, Sylva said: “You are here on a mission; I commend you for all the good work you have done, our nation depends on this asset to survive, oil and gas is one of the major sustaining assets of the country.

“Unfortunately, we have had a lot of insecurity around oil facilities and pipelines; this can no longer be condoned. Mr President has directed that this must stop.

 “You are here as gallant officers to protect these facilities; henceforth, we will be working closely with you to ensure that there is zero loss to our production.”

The community must be involved, the security arm must be involved, and the third arm which is the operating publics must also be involved. I want to let everybody know that these criminals have their days numbered.

Damage to environment

At Ibaa Community in Emeoha Local Government of Rivers State, where the delegation witnessed an illegal refinery burnt down by the Military, Sylva said apart from causing huge losses for Nigeria, the criminals were also destroying the livelihoods of locals and the environment.

To solve the problem, Sylva said: “The community must be involved, the security arm must be involved, and the third arm which is the operating public must also be involved. I want to let everybody know that these criminals have their days numbered.

“We are here to reclaim this industry for the country because the country has lost so much from the activities of these criminals and the government can no longer afford these activities.”

Also speaking, General Irabor said in carrying out Mr President’s directives to contain losses from these criminalities and reverse the trend, the Military will deploy a different strategy.

“Our drive is to look at the value chain within the oil and gas space. We are not only zeroing in on the criminals, but also on those who are supporting them.”

In his remarks, Komolafe described the acts of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism as “a national disaster and the perpetrators as criminals.

“For those who want to do legitimate business, there are clear government regulations on how that is done. But what we’ve seen here today are criminals and their activities will no longer be tolerated.”

On his part, Kyari explained that the scale of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism seen in the community was beyond explanation, adding that all hands must be on deck to contain the spate of crude oil losses in Nigeria.

While appreciating the current leadership of the Military, Kyari expressed confidence that through a collaborative effort of government security agencies, host communities and oil companies operating in the area and with the deployment of the right technology, the menace would be contained.

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