Govt laments theft of nation’s crude oil, vows to end menace
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan yesterday regretted the continued stealing of crude oil in Nigeria, stressing his government’s “uncompromising obligation” to stop it.
He said that given the importance of the maritime sector to the national economy, the Federal Government is working to safeguard the nation’s territorial waters against all threats including poaching, piracy, pipeline vandalism, coastal insecurity, illegal bunkering, non-payment of statutory levies and charges, illegal entry of ships into our territorial waters, illegal importation of arms and hard drugs and other sundry crimes.
This, according to him, is being done through the strengthening of regulatory over sight and deepening of inter-agency partnership.
Speaking at the Presidential Retreat on Maritime Sector, Jonathan said: “It is extremely embarrassing that it is only in Nigeria that crude oil is stolen. It is a very bad news and I believe that Nigerians and foreigners who are indulging in this act need to throw their heads under the pillow because all over the world, it is only in Nigeria that crude oil is stolen. We are not the only oil producing country. Why is it that it is only in Nigeria that people steal crude oil? This must stop.”
He charged the nation’s security agencies to “place focus on evolving a strong intelligence base and information gathering system, and measures so that crude oil theft is completely eliminated. We will be decisive in putting an end to this malaise. Our charge to all relevant agencies and departments of government is to work co-operatively with the required urgency this challenge deserves. Our countrymen and women are looking forward to a better-managed and result-oriented maritime sector. We cannot afford to disappoint our people. The area of institutions for capacity building in the maritime industry needs to be properly examined. This time, I expect Nigeria to have some of the best maritime academy for training our people and also for the people of the sub-region.”
Jonathan also constituted a 15-member panel to set timelines for the implementation of road-map to the transformation of Nigeria’s maritime sector.
They include the Minister of Transport (Chairman), Olisa Agbakoba SAN (Vice Chairman), Senior Special Adviser to the President on Maritime, Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority, Comptroller-General of Customs, Director-General of the Bureau for Public Procurement, Jim Ovia, Mrs. Vicky Hastrup, Chief Jolapamo and the Special Adviser to the President on Project Monitoring and Evaluation.
Others include the representatives of the Chief of Naval Staff, Minister of Petroleum Resources and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
The one-day retreat, being held at the Banquet Hall of Presidential Villa, Abuja was hosted by Jonathan to enable maritime sector stakeholders to assess progress, review challenges, chart a realistic way forward and where necessary, indicate timelines for the attainment of set goals.
The retreat, he stated, would agree on timelines for the attainment of specific milestones. It is my expectation that we proffer workable solutions and set achievable targets.
This, Jonathan said, was imperative as “our maritime industry helped to enhance our position as a regional leader in several areas. Besides improved prospects in traditional sea-related activities such as fishing, shipping, ship-building and repairs, agriculture and tourism, the sector is a major hub in offshore oil exploration and production activities and will remain so in the foreseeable future. Even though it is generally known that the West African coast has the richest fishery resources in Africa, our inability to take advantage of our endowment has been attributed to inadequate law enforcement and industry capacity.
“The cost of piracy to our economy is unacceptably high. Pirates frustrate fishing activities and threaten investments in the West African Coast. Higher insurance premiums and charges on ships sailing along the Gulf of Guinea impact negatively on our economy and image. Similarly, pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft result in serious loss of revenue to Government even as maritime environmental degradation from such disasters affect our people and well-being. Government is determined to reverse this situation. We will protect our natural resources and ensure their sustainable use for the benefit of present and future generations.”
Jonathan added that the recently inaugurated Maritime Operations Coordinating Committee is already working to address all illegalities in the maritime domain. In addition, a sustainable patrol arrangement to enhance collection of revenue and ensure maritime safety has also been approved by the federal government to encourage an integrated port security system in all the ports for maximum result.
The amnesty programme, the President said, is yielding the desired fruits as typified in improved security along the coasts, in offshore oil infrastructure, capacity development, and job creation.
But Jonathan noted that there is need for more to be done. This workshop provides opportunity to capitalize on the gains so far made and to find durable solutions to the challenges in the maritime sector.
Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala listed the challenges in the maritime sector to include improving safety and security of our maritime waters, increasing local participation and cabotage; completing port reforms and maximising revenue potentials from the sector.
She said: “The cost of inadequate maritime safety and security to Nigerian society and the economy has been significant. You will hear more as we look at the issue of oil theft and piracy. The numbers are up on piracy incidence in the Gulf of Guinea, from 45 in 2010 to 64 now. And this is worrisome. This threatens close to $600 million of fishing exports. We have unfortunately not been able to solve this issue and I wonder why. I hope today will mark the end of this illegal practices. On the issue of increasing local participation in the sector and cabotage, the indigenous Ship Owners Association of Nigeria said that we now lose over N2 trillion yearly in capital flight to foreign countries which own vessels used to lift about 150 million tonnes of cargoes, including oil products from this country as there is no Nigerian flagship is currently plying international routes. Nigerian own vessels make up less than one per cent of the global fleets and are quite old with an average of 30 years of age. Increasing Nigeria’s participation in this sector will not only ensure that most of these incomes are retained locally, but will lead to increased jobs for Nigerians. As you will see from the Mackenzie reports later, Philippines for example has been able to position itself as a global supplier of seafarers, creating a lot of jobs and significant foreign income for the country. Why can’t we replicate this in Nigeria?