BY OLASUNKANMI AKONI
ACTION Congress of Nigeria, ACN, has called on Federal Government to develop the political will to end crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta region, warning that if not checked, it would worsen the nation’s economic woes.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement, yesterday, said oil theft and pipeline vandalism, the cost of which had been put between $6 and $12 billion per annum, had degenerated to the pre-amnesty period when oil theft peaked at about 350,000 barrels per day, higher than the quantity of oil produced daily by Gabon or Equatorial Guinea.
According to the party, “on February 24, 2013, we raised alarm that the country’s economy was heading for the rocks, citing the skyrocketing cost of oil production, from $4 per barrel in 2002 to $35 per barrel presently; the massive corruption in the oil sector; the sharp fall in the discovery of new oil and gas reserves due to the low investment in the sector, and the challenge posed by alternative sources of global supply of oil and gas.
“Today, we say the situation is actually worse than we had thought, exacerbated by pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft which had reached an unsustainable level. Add this to the resurgence of attacks by Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, and we are compelled to cry out again.’’
ACN said the action taken in recent times by two major oil companies, Shell Petroleum Development Company, and Nigerian Agip Oil Company, was the clearest indication yet of the seriousness of the situation.
“The shutdown of these two key oil delivery trunk lines by Shell and Agip has cut nearly 300,000 barrels per day from the dwindling Nigeria’s oil output, now put at 2.2 million barrels per day, down from 2.75 million barrels per day a year ago, resulting from increased, organised and sophisticated illegal bunkering of oil by criminals operating in the creeks of the Niger Delta.
“To worsen matters, it has been alleged that some bad eggs in the military Joint Task Force, JTF, deployed to the region to protect oil personnel and facilities have been accused of complicity in the illegal bunkering activities.
“This is why the Federal Government must quickly engage key stakeholders in a dialogue with a view to finding ways to stop the criminal act before it cripples the economy and brings Nigeria down to its knees,’’ the party said.