By KENNETH EHIGIATOR
Twenty-Nine repentant Niger Delta militants recently trained in aviation academies in South Africa as pilots are to be type-rated by German carrier, Lufthansa Airlines in Frankfurt, Germany, and CAE Aviation facility, Oxford, United Kingdom.
The ex-militants, trained under the platform of Presidential Amnesty Programme, PAP, would be type-rated in Boeing and Airbus aircraft, having acquired Private Pilot Licenses, PPL, and Commercial Pilot Licenses, CPL.
Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Chairman Presidential Amnesty Programme, Mr Kingsley Kuku, yesterday, in Lagos at a conference on oil theft and illegal oil bunkering in the Niger Delta, said officials of Lufthansa Airlines and CAE Aviation will be in the country next week to follow up on the development.
He expressed delight that the two aviation institutions accepted to give the pilots type-rating courses, and advised the pilots not to allow themselves to be carried away by the success recorded so far.
Kuku, who noted that more of the ex-militants were being trained in aircraft piloting in South Africa, Greece, Jordan and United Arab Emirates, also implored the pilots to re-double efforts and perform better than they did at the Afrika Union Aviation Academy and Flight Training Services in South Africa.
On crude oil theft, Kuku said that the stealing of about 400,000 barrels of crude per day was an economic crime against Nigeria, which had reached an alarming proportion and requires full military might and the collaboration of stakeholders to fights.
Applauding the strides of the Navy and the Joint Task Force, JTF, in combating the scourge, he described the magnitude of the current oil theft in the Niger Delta as “blood oil crisis” only matched by the notorious Sierra Leonean “blood diamond.”
He said the situation might degenerate to a point where government would no longer be able to fund developmental programme, if steps were not urgently taken to deal with the scourge.
He said that the most effective way of dealing with pipelines vandalism and oil theft was to make Niger Delta indigenes actively involved in securing oil infrastructure and be made part owners of oil resources, even as he called for an effective collaboration between oil companies and states in the Niger Delta to check the scourge.
“Nigerians must see oil theft as a war against Nigeria, and those behind it must be treated as economic criminals,” he said.
Kuku traced oil theft to the doorsteps of rich oil cartels and very wealthy individuals in Nigeria and outside, who have the wherewithal to bear the attendant high costs, including demurrage, noting that the phenomenon was too sophisticated and expensive for the average person in the region to handle.