Former Chief of Policy and Plans, Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Henry Babalola (rtd), called on the federal government to prosecute persons involved in oil theft for treason. Babalola expressed disappointment with the government’s poor handling of the oil theft issue. He said government was not doing enough to eradicate the menace destroying the country’s revenue base.
Speaking at a seminar organised by the Defence Correspondents Association of Nigeria (DECAN), with the theme, “Achieving Presidential Mandate in Curbing Oil Theft and Securing the Nation’s Wealth,” in Abuja, Babalola recommended that those caught stealing the country’s crude should be charged with treason.
He called on the government to identify the supply chain of oil theft and the individuals involved, and bring the culprits to justice.
He said, “It is high time the government treated the menace with urgency. Oil theft will destroy the nation’s economy should the government fail to act fast.”
In his remarks, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said the order given by President Muhammadu Buhari on the eradication of oil theft was yielding result.
Sylva stated, “Before that directive, oil production went down to 900, 000 barrels per day, but today it is gradually picking up and oscillating between 1.5 million and 1.6 million barrels per day.”
Represented by his aide, Horatius Egua, Sylva said the problems confronting the oil and gas industry were caused by years of neglect by past administrations.
He said, “The oil and gas industry is the most complex sector in this country. That is why some allege that in the sector, the more you look, the less you see. However, in the last 12 months, the order by the president to end oil theft in the country is beginning to yield results.
“Apart from stealing, past governments did not invest in infrastructure in the oil and gas sector for a very long time. You find pipelines rupturing.
“We could not get what we wanted, but this administration has done much to restore infrastructure.
“The president directed that the refineries must work and as it is presently, the Port Harcourt refinery is at 65-70 per cent. Hopefully, before the end of the second quarter of the year, I believe something will come out of that refinery.”
In his remarks, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Dr. Ibrahim Kana, disclosed that the country’s effort to achieve the presidential mandate handed to the ministry was successful due to the adaptation of synergy among the tri-services, especially in planning, coordination, and implementation of actionable programmes and projects.
Kana, who was represented by Director, Army, in the ministry, Mr. Sunday Attah, said, “No doubt, the Nigerian Armed Forces and agencies of the ministry now enjoy wider public support and understanding, which have resulted in positive attitudinal change among Nigerians.
“Nigerians are now very familiar with the efforts of President Muhammadu Buhari in securing the country and guaranteeing the safety of Nigerians against banditry, kidnapping and terrorism.”
The permanent secretary commended Buhari for the special attention accorded the ministry in providing for the needs of the armed forces of Nigeria, promptly, and the guidance in the discharge of “our constitutional responsibilities.”
He stated, “Mr. President has ensured that the tri-services are rebranded with modern equipment as well as military and civilian personnel are being trained and retrained regularly, to enhance proficiency and efficiency in service delivery.
“Wellbeing and welfare of personnel by the federal government have continued to provide ideal accommodation for the comfort of soldiers and their families.”
Kana stated that recently, the ministry commenced the upgrading of primary and secondary schools, in addition to ensuring security and safety of teachers, pupils and the school environment.
He said, “On this matter of oil theft before us as a nation, I call on all hands to be on deck, especially the media, in the fight against this deadly menace.
“It is necessary to remind you that the expectations of Nigerians on the media is high and as such, you must live up to that expectation. Every story must be accurate, verifiable, credible and, most importantly, be relayed with high sense of patriotism and professionalism.”
At the event, Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, was represented by Chief of Training and Operations at Defence Headquarters, Major General Solomon Udounwa.
Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, was represented by Director of Operations, Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral OK Oluwagbire,.
In attendance also were Director of Defence Media Operations, Major General Musa Danmadami, and Director, Naval Information, Commodore Ayo-Vaughan.
Emmanuel Addeh, Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja, Peter Uzoho in Lagos