The Federal Government has vowed to do whatever it takes for a peaceful Niger Delta in order to put an end to the crude oil theft and economic sabotage in the area.
Minister of Defence, His Excellency, Muhammed Badaru disclosed this when he led a high-powered federal government delegation to the area on Saturday.
The visit was barely 24 hours after the inspection of the Port Harcourt Refinery and Petrochemicals Complex to assess start-up readiness by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Gas), Permanent Secretary Ministry of Petroleum Resources, and the NNPC Limited team led by the Group Chief Executive Officer, Mallam Mele Kyari.
Briefing Newsmen shortly after the tour, Badaru said, the delegation was sent by President Bola Tinubu with the charge to stem crude oil theft in Nigeria.
“ We are ready to do whatever it takes for a peaceful Niger Delta, give peace a chance, desist from crude oil theft and economic sabotage”, he said.
He said, the delegation observed illegal connections costing the country million-dollar losses, adding that the losses were part of the reasons why Nigeria could not meet OPEC quota.
Corroborating Badaru, GCEO, NNPCL, Mele Kyari said, the damage at one location in Owaza in Abia stare was costing Nigeria a loss of 7.2 million dollars (over N5 billion) per month.
NNPC GCEO noted that while Oil theft in vessels could be tracked, the Host Communities must play a vital role in curbing oil theft within their communities where oil facilities are situated.
The joint mission started at the Nigerian Airforce Base Port Harcourt from where the delegation proceeded to the Rivers State Government House to pay a courtesy call on the Governor of Rivers State.
According to the Chief Security Officer of Pipeline Infrastructure Nigeria Limited, Patrick Godwin arrests have been made and some culprits have been prosecuted.
Upon return to the Airforce base, the delegation embarked on an overflight over Owaza, Bille, Azuzuama, Ahoada, Rumuekepe Ebocha, Abacheke, Egbema, Ohaji, and Koko communities of Abia, Rivers, Bayelsa, Imo and Delta states.
At Owaza the team visited the Trans-Niger Pipeline Right of Way where an array of dismantled illegal connections were observed.
After a ground assessment of illegal connection points and destroyed illegal refineries, the NSA, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu applauded the role of the Government Security Forces, Community Security Contractors, and NNPC Limited in stepping up the fight against crude oil theft and economic sabotage that profits only a few citizens he rightly labelled as criminals and bandits.
He echoed the message of the lead of the delegation, “enough is enough, the environment is being destroyed, livelihoods are being destroyed and the Federation is deprived of revenue capable of shoring up the economy and strengthening the Naira”.
During the aerial assessment, the delegation gained first-hand insights into the progress of the war on crude oil theft in the Niger Delta. They observed clandestine refineries, illegal bunkering operations, and the scale of environmental devastation, collectively translating into severe economic losses for the country.
The visit was also an opportunity for the delegation to show their presence in the communities and assess the gravity of the situation and the critical need to strengthen collaboration for a comprehensive solution.
The Community Security Contractors were also on ground to brief the delegation on recent successes and challenges encountered.
The joint participation of the Ministers, the National Security Adviser, Service Chiefs, Oil and Gas Industry Regulators, and The NPC Limited leadership underscores the unity of purpose among various stakeholders to combat the large-scale economic sabotage holding the entire country to ransom.