By Daniel Idonor
Abuja â€” The Federal Government,Â weekend, lamented the non- cooperation from the international community in tackling the increasing problem of oil theft in the Niger Delta.
In an interview with journalists in Abuja, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mr. Odien Ajumogobia, said it was sad that the interna-tional community who are the beneficiaries of the stolen crude oil were not demonstrating any serious commitments in helping to halt the illegal trade in crude oil.
â€œI donâ€™t think that there has been very much positive response. I think one way of dealing with the issue is for you to go close to the market where it is being sold. Then the crime stops. People are stealing the oil to sell. If you are waiting for them in the market and they canâ€™t sell it. There is nothing for them to do with it,â€ Ajumogobia said.
â€œI think it is something we can, and should look at. I think more importantly, is the fact that they can steal crude oil and take it out of Nigeria secretly because you have to carry this thing over open water. The vessels that come in berth several kilometres offshore. You have to take this crude in smaller boats across open water, offload into a big tanker, come back take more and continue to do so until you fill a tanker up to a million barrels and the tanker sails.â€
â€œThis canâ€™t be done secretly. I think the responsibility lies on our security agents to curb this practice while we also engage the market where it is going. Technology also allows you to follow the tanker. You can see the barges as they are going in the open water with satellite imagery as they are offloading, as the tanker is sailing and see where the tanker ends up. We are in the 21st century and this is 18th and 19th century crimes,â€ he said.
He however maintained that â€œefforts are being made to tackle it because in my interaction with security agencies we have seen a direct connection between their clamping down on these activities-illegal oil theft and bunkering and sabotage.
Anytime you see facilities being blown up left, right and centre you know that they have taken major action and they are stopping the bunkering operations. So there is a net back reactionâ€.
The minister said that the issues were however â€œcomplicatedâ€ stressing that â€œthat is why this whole amnesty process and trying to bring peace to the region is important. The best policeman in any country is the citizen. He is not the man who wears the uniform?
It is all about policing ourselves and helping those people in uniforms to do their jobs. But if you have a situation where you canâ€™t stop anybody stealing from the pipeline instead you say ol boy give me my own, then it is much more difficultâ€.
Commenting on the inadequacy of gas to power the turbines across the country, he said that the domestic gas obligation set by the government would help meet the dry gas requirements to power the 6000 mega watts of electricity.
â€œWhat we are trying to do is to put that obligation within our planning for the gas master plan. We need 1.2 billion scf for the 6000 mw and basically we included that in that target so that we can meet both our domestic requirements and those obligations abroadâ€.
â€œEvery company that is producing gas must dedicate a certain quantity to domestic use. It is that quantity that we are using to feed this power projects and that is the hard work that is going on to ensure that the infrastructure, the qualityÂ and the quantity of gas required to meet the 6000 mw target is met,â€ he said.
He said â€œwe are all working together, the petroleum ministry, the power ministry are working together to ensure that we meet this target. As far as gas supply is concerned, what we have done as part of this master plan is to force people who want to export gas dedicate certain amount to domestic useâ€.
â€œIf a man produces quantity of gas and he can take this gas to Europe, sell at $3 he will do so instead of selling it to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) which will not even pay him. So what we have done basically is instead of telling a man, you must sell your petrol in Abuja at N65, you can go to Kano if you like but you must deliver a certain amount in Abuja. That is the domestic obligation we have imposed,â€ Ajumogobia stated.