Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stated that combating crude oil theft and sabotage remains a top priority for the Federal Government, and that those responsible must be held accountable since, in addition to economic implications, institutional and individual reputations are at stake.
Speaking Tuesday in Abuja as a Special Guest at a Stakeholders Conference on Oil Theft and Losses in Nigeria, Osinbajo emphasized that such a heinous crime cannot simply be a summitry topic; “people must do their jobs, and if they are unable to do them, then they must account for their failures. Personal and institutional reputations are at stake.”
“Oil theft and sabotage of oil and gas assets are a clear and present menace to our economic and national security,” he expressed worry.
In addition to posing a grave threat to oil exploration and our energy economy, they have a negative impact on revenue accruals to the Federation and the business prospects of oil sector investors.”
Noting that the Federal Government prioritized the development of the Niger Delta and the protection of oil assets, the Vice President emphasized that since the beginning of the current administration, the theft of crude oil and the accompanying attacks on our energy infrastructure, particularly in the Niger Delta, have been of the utmost concern.
Osinbajo highlighted the work of the National Economic Council, which he leads, against a backdrop of massive output cuts and income losses.
According to him, the Council established an ad hoc committee to determine the extent of oil theft and losses in Nigeria and to recommend corrective action.
His words: “The majority of the Ad-hoc Committee’s recommendations impacted the Petroleum Industry Act of 2021 and are already being implemented. Even so, devastating and unacceptable levels of oil and gas infrastructure damage, oil theft, and low production yields continue to be recorded.
He stated that President Buhari had enacted the Petroleum Industry Act of 2021 in an effort to revive the oil and gas industry.
“The Act, among other things, establishes comprehensive provisions to satisfy the needs of Host Communities in oil and gas producing areas. The intent of these provisions is to alleviate their concerns, instill a sense of belonging, and promote unity of purpose with oil corporations for everyone’s benefit,” he explained.
The Vice President, speaking on the topic of ‘Protecting Petroleum Industry Assets for a Better Economy,’ stated, “Our administration is combating these acts of economic terrorism on several fronts and with a variety of means.”
We have made major investments in enhancing our maritime security architecture. President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure Project, also known as the Deep Blue Project, in June 2021. This was a collaborative multiagency effort involving the armed forces, the police and the Department of State Services (DSS), the Nigerian Maritime Administration & Safety Agency (NIMASA), and the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Defence.
“The initiative provides air, naval, and ground assets for surveillance, law enforcement, and search and rescue in our coastal waters and exclusive economic zones.”
Osinbajo also recalled being at the Naval Headquarters, where he “commissioned Falcon Eye, a marine surveillance facility that networks sensors located around our country’s coastline.” It is intended to give real-time, actionable intelligence on maritime security threats in order to facilitate the fast and preventative interdiction of criminals.
Together, these two measures represent enormous investments in making our waters safe for energy trade and hostile to criminals who threaten our fundamental economic interests.
In addition to strengthening the nation’s maritime security architecture, Osinbajo highlighted the administration’s New Vision for the Niger Delta program.
The Vice President recounted how militant organizations damaged the country’s oil infrastructure within a year of the Buhari Administration taking office.
Given the importance of oil and gas to federation revenues and export earnings, he remarked, “it was no surprise that the economy entered recession in 2016 for the first time in twenty years, contracting by -1.6 percent.” It was evident to the administration at the time that, in order to leave the recession as quickly as possible, oil output had to be restored to levels over 2 million barrels per day.
Osinbajo further remembered that in 2017, at the direction of the President, he “visited all oil-producing states, particularly the Niger Delta, to meet with stakeholders and assess the issues that prompted the sabotage of oil installations.”
In 2017, as a result of the Vice President’s tour of the region, the Buhari administration developed its New Vision for the Niger Delta as an open partnership between the Federal Government, State Governments, Private Sector, and Local Communities through which the people of the region can derive the greatest possible benefit from their land’s wealth.
“As a result of these discussions and the feedback we obtained from the communities, we were able to draft the New Vision for the Niger Delta, which helped to calm the situation and stop attacks on oil infrastructure. These initiatives resulted in substantial success”.
According to the 2018 Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry Annual Report, the Vice President stated that crude oil output increased to an anticipated daily average of 2.12 million barrels per day at the time. However, he observed that this upward tendency was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Osinbajo remarked that one of the pillars of the New Vision program was the creation of modular refineries to combat unlawful artisanal refining in the region and offer employment opportunities for the region’s young.
According to him, following the recommendation of an Ad-hoc Committee of the National Economic Council, it was determined that “creating employment opportunities for the youths of oil-producing communities and making petroleum products available in these communities will significantly reduce poverty and criminality in the region.”
“Under the New Vision for the Niger Delta, we pushed the licensing of modular refineries to deter unlawful artisanal refining. The refineries were intended to be privately owned, with a limited proportion of shares held by the host municipalities. It was thought that this would attract illicit refiners and therefore eliminate one of the most significant forms of sabotage against oil assets, particularly the damage of pipelines.
The Vice President then promised that the Buhari government remained committed to “captaining the ship of governance till the very end,” adding that “we are committed to leaving our best acts, thoughts, and ideas for the benefit of the future administration and the nation.”