By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
Barely 24 hours after an uproar over missing oil money amounting to over $49 billion, the Federal Government admitted last night that menace of increasing oil theft was undermining its Transformation agenda.
Vice President, Arc Mohammed Namadi Sambo, lamented the malevolent action during a top level delegation from the United States Government, led by the Assistant Secretary of Defence, Mrs. Sharon Burke.
Sambo, who described oil theft as a gross criminal act against the people and the State, said a huge amount of resources, which would have been used for the development of critical infrastructure had been lost to the menace of oil theft in recent years.
He however, expressed optimism that with the support and partnership of the United States and other members of the international community the menace would soon be brought to an end.
The Vice President further stated that government was not taking oil theft lightly as it had put in place stringent measures to bring the menace to an end, saying that the Federal Executive Council had today approved the development of a special laboratory for forensic on oil products in Nigeria, which will assist in tackling the problem squarely.
Sambo expressed deep appreciation with the unprecedented support Nigeria had been receiving from President Barack Obama and the US Government.
He stated that Nigeria was a strong believer in democracy which the US stood for, adding that Nigeria was committed to the entrenchment of democracy in not only the West African sub-region, but Africa as a whole.
Speaking, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, stated that the high-powered delegation was an outcome of the meeting between President Goodluck Jonathan and President Barack Obama earlier in September.
She disclosed that the delegation had met with several stakeholders, including the governors of oil-bearing states, communities, International Oil Companies and relevant government establishments, which had availed them the opportunity to understand the extent of the problem.
Speaking the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, said that the delegation was in Nigeria to look at areas that the US could assist in tackling the scourge, particularly the intentional and local dimension of the problem.
The leader of the delegation, Mrs. Sharon Burke, said that through their interactions with several stakeholders, the delegation understood that everyone in Nigeria was very concerned, adding that the need to tackle the problem had become urgent, considering the revenue loss by government.