BY GODWIN ETAKIBUEBU
THE last time this topic was discussed, we established the fact that there are two categories of oil thieves in Nigeria – those in government, acting in official capacity and those outside government. We were able to identify those in government and the quantity of product they steal from the Nigerian people daily. One pointed out that there is an official daily allocation of 450,000 barrel of crude oil [expected to be refined] allocated for local consumption for the Nigerian market.
This allocation is taken away daily by the NNPC and its subsidiaries but nothingby way of revenue to government coffers, either as finished product of PMS or cash. The conclusion therefore is that, is a colossal sum of US$12,975,750,000 – representing annual sales of the 450,000 barrels at 2013 budget estimate of US$79 per barrel was stolen. And this has been on for as many years as we can count. This is what is stolen by the first category of the Nigerian oil thieves.
Let us find the second category of the oil thieves. This category is a little difficult to track because the thieves in this category do not operate from one location like those in the first category which is at the NNPC. These thieves are scattered all over the land, highly placed personalities who can acquire vessels [motor tankers], keep security agencies at sea in their pay-roll, can “even command those security agencies securing our oil to escort their ships to the safety of international waters from both the loading platforms and the creeks” and with enough power to turn “day to night and night to day”.
These people are first class “DEALERS” parading themselves as “LEADERS”. They are to be found in both the Military and other paramilitary institutions [serving and retired], hierarchy of Traditional institutions from all over the country, some political godfathers across the country, amongst the corps of Ministers, some religious bigots, some “professional killers” going by the name of freedom fighters and many others too numerous to mention.
Even, those we rely on as “gate keepers and watchers” over our oil – that is the Nigerian Navy officers and men – are the greatest culprits in this matter. Oh, less l forget, the international community, as mostly represented by the Lebanese residents in Nigerian are major players in this industry as well.
Those mentioned above give “instruction for the sea to be calm” because they want to “catch fish” and the “protectors of the sea” would obey because “big fish must come into the net”. The rule of the game is known to everyone in the “TRADE” and this is inclusive of the cost for “smooth operation”. Yes, from the Excravos Estuary to Akasa Water Fronts, the language is the same and business booms. On the field of crude oil, the CAT is as much a thief as the RAT so the result is to your “tent oh Israel”.
Every member of this group is wealthy enough, well connected enough and ruthless enough. In the business of crude oil stealing “life is the i.o.u [I owe you] of the looser”. Mistakes are not always to be condoned. It is organised along the MAFIA etiquette. It is a trade that is well connected to the international community. It is likely to be broken but can be brought under control only, if the present DEALERS, sorry LEADERS, are ready to tell themselves the truth that “enough is enough ”.
I am not so sure if it is the quantity of crude oil stolen by this category of thieves that the honourable Minister of Finance; Dr. Ngozi Okonji-Iweala, alluded to when she said that Nigeria may be losing up to 12b USD to “oil thieves in 2013 alone.
However, l am of the opinion; and this is my personal anyway, that unless this category of thieves steal as small as 450,000 barrel per day, which is most unlikely, the total loss to oil thieves last year may be within the region of 15 to 20b USD. Huh!
How one arrived at this frightening figure is simple. The following scenario paints a better picture. In the trade of stealing crude oil as described earlier, the investment is heavy. Motor tankers are sometimes anchored in international waters with ventilated smaller vessels [sometimes trawlers] servicing them from the point of loading illegally. The sizes of the vessels to be used by these oil thieves are likely to be, in most cases, Ocean going double haul tankers; and these are large enough to take from 10,000 to 350,000 tons [called Dead Weight Ton or DWT in Maritime] of crude oil, depending on the “availability of market” for the thief and his/her “holding capacity in the market place”. And buyers are always waiting eagerly for stolen crude oil at the international market places. This is addition to the fact that the business is going on with impunity daily.
Whichever way we look at the matter or whatever method this dangerous trade goes through, or even whatever instrument of carriage deployed into the operation, Nigeria is ‘bleeding’ financially. This is why we must stop it – talk of the “stealing trade”. Who can stop it? This remains a big and naughty question to answer. This writer might not be able to give a clear cut answer or solution to the question except to throw a guess.
The only suggestion that may pass, most likely, for solution is to call on our leaders; from the Presidency to all other authorities to come together in Abuja, at a round a table and agree on one subject matter. That subject matter should not be eradication of theft of the “black gold” because it would amount to collective deceit if eradication is the topic. The President and Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, who must preside over this all-important meeting, should call out with a tune of finality. “The time has come for all of us to reduce stealing of our crude oil to the barest minimal”.
Nearly all of them will likely concur. If they so agree, then the end of the annual colossal monetary lose is in sight.
*Mr. Etakibuebu, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.