22 May 2016, Abuja — The ad hoc Committee on Crude Oil Theft Prevention and Control of the National Economic Council (NEC) has revealed that government does not have adequate operational vessels to patrol and secure the network of pipelines in the Niger Delta.
Briefing journalists at the end of the 67th meeting of NEC which held on Thursday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Admiral John Jonah Atuama (rtd), said the committee also discovered that massive unemployment among youths in the Niger Delta region had contributed in no small measure to the rising incidence of oil theft and vandalism of oil company facilities in the region.
Atuama said that he reported to the council that the committee, which was set up sometime in 2013, consulted widely with relevant stakeholders including the Armed Forces Joint Task Force (JTF), oil companies, oil producing states, and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), among others.
According to him, the scarcity of petroleum products in the Niger Delta area was also responsible for the recurrence of illegal bunkering.
He said the committee recommended that appropriate technology must be procured and deployed for surveillance of the oil and gas facilities.
The deputy governor said the committee also recommended that combat vehicles/boats be procured and deployed in difficult terrains to drastically reduce incidents of oil theft and illegal bunkering.
This, the committee said, would ensure full benefits of uninterrupted supply of oil and gas to the terminals and for domestic use.
Among others, the committee recommended that the federal government should set up special courts for the speedy prosecution of illegal oil bunkerers and oil theft suspects, and the engagement of traditional rulers to sensitise their communities on the criminal and environmental dangers of oil theft.
To address the problems in the oil sector on a long-term basis, NEC further agreed that there should be an increase in the refining capacity of the domestic refineries through the co-location of smaller cost-efficient refineries within the timeframe of 12 to 24 months.
It was also agreed that focus should be on restoring upstream production by positively engaging host communities to bring the current militancy to an end.
The Delta deputy governor added that council also agreed that attention should be focused on improving government funding in the upstream sector where funding had been less than 30 per cent and that government should be relieved of monthly cash-call funding and create a sustainable self-funding arrangement.
The council further agreed that government should continue to engage the general public and all stakeholders by providing relevant information and education.
Also yesterday, NEC approved a fiscal sustainability plan aimed at helping states navigate the current economic downturn.
NEC, which is composed of all the 36 state governors and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, meets monthly and is chaired by the vice-president.
A statement issued by the media aide to the vice-president, Mr. Laolu Akande, said the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, reported to the council that the balance in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) stood at $2,259,688,878.06 as at April 30, 2016.
She put the interest that accrued to the account at $429,903.55 for the month of April 2016.
The chairman of NEC, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, informed the council that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the reconstitution of the board of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), adding that the board would be put in place soon.