Nigeria’s Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, along with several top government officials , have visited security personnel fighting to stamp out oil theft in the Niger Delta, reiterating President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to end the menace before May 29.
While delivering the president’s instructions to the Joint Task Force (JTF) Operation Delta Safe (OpDS), in Effurum, Delta State and Port Harcourt, Rivers State, respectively, Sylva stressed that government can no longer tolerate the criminality in the region.
A statement by the Senior Adviser, Media and Communications to the minister, Horatius Egua, quoted the minister as stressing that the activities of the oil thieves had destabilised crude oil production in the last couple of years.
“Mr President has mandated us to eradicate crude oil theft. He has directed that no litre of crude oil should be stolen in the country again especially in the South South.
“He wants crude oil theft completely eliminated by May 29, 2023 as one of the legacies of his government. This is the message from Mr President. We are not where we want to be, but we are happy at what we are seeing,” the minister said.
Prior to the renewed efforts of the federal government in tackling the menace of crude oil theft, the nation’s daily crude oil production was about 900,000 barrels per day, the statement said.
However, it noted that due to the scaled up security efforts of the federal government, it has helped to shore up production to about 1.5 million barrels per day.
“I am happy to hear that morale is high here. We were here a few months ago to hand over the mandate of Mr President to you and that is to ensure that there is zero tolerance for crude oil theft in the region.
“We want to thank you for what you have done so far but there is still more to be done for us to achieve 100 per cent. Nigerians have noticed what you are doing, the managers in the oil industry have noticed what you are doing and indeed the international community has noticed what you are doing.
“We are happy at the improvement we are seeing in the oil and gas sector. We have seen the significant improvement and that’s why we are here on the mandate of the president to thank you for what you are doing. He has said there should be no reason why we should be losing an essential commodity that is the ‘life wire’ of the country.
“We are here to ask you to redouble your efforts so that we will be able to tell Nigerians and the president that we have zero tolerance for crude oil theft,” the minister stated further,” Sylva explained.
He recalled that when the team visited the region about three months ago on the mandate of the president, the situation was very disturbing noting that today there is a significant difference.
“We have seen a significant change in the whole thing and we are happy about it. We want to return in another few months to show Nigerians that we have successfully tackled the problem of oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the country,” he noted.
While thanking the combined team of security agencies for their efforts, he urged them not to relent in pushing forward with the strides already achieved so far, adding that going forward, the federal government will have zero tolerance for the menace.
In his remarks, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) , Mallam Mele Kyari, disclosed that the government had set up special courts to expedite the trial of criminal elements involved in perpetrating the crime in the Niger Delta region.
Kyari who also expressed gratitude to the troops for the work they were doing to restore confidence in the sector, noted that he was sure that there will be full restoration in crude oil production in the shortest possible time.
He also expressed confidence in the collaboration between security agencies and the private security companies contracted by the NNPC Limited in the campaign to restore full production in the sector.
The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Lucky Irabor in his remarks, urged the security agencies to remain steadfast in the campaign to halt crude oil theft in the country.
Other officials on the minister’s team, besides Kyari and Irabor were the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) Mr Gbenga Komolafe and the Chief Executive Offer of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) Mr.Farouk Ahmed.
Also on the entourage were the Commander, Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Aminu Hassan, senior government officials in the oil and gas sector as well as other top military officers.