Edwin Clark, Ijaw leader and elder statesman, has asked the federal government to probe the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) and the military over crude oil theft in the Niger Delta.
About 600,000 barrels of crude oil are estimated to be stolen daily.
Government officials and members of the armed forces have been accused of complicity in the theft.
Speaking at a news conference in Abuja on Tuesday, Clark asked the federal government to set up a judicial panel of inquiry to probe the military and officials of the NNPCL for economic sabotage.
He said a high-powered technological engineering expertise is applied to stealing crude oil from the Forcados line, and transported through a four-kilometre pipeline to a platform in the sea, which belongs to tte NNPCL and its partners.
“According to NNPCL, this is part of the 470 thousand barrels of crude oil that is being lost every month, amounting to $700 million,” he said.
“The international oil companies (IOCs) should be directed, once again, this time with sincerity of purpose, to relocate their operational headquarters to the Niger Delta region, if there is a genuine desire to end this menace.
“I want to advise the federal government to institute a judicial inquiry to investigate this criminal act of oil theft and also, to once again, appeal that jobs should be provided for the teeming unemployed youths; modular refineries should be built to replace the illegal refineries being currently operated, and which do not only affect the economy of the country, but is also devastating the Niger Delta environment.
“The news that there is an illicit four kilometers pipeline, through which crude oil is being siphoned, goes to confirm what I have always said over the years, and what the leaders of the Niger Delta have been shouting about, that the issue of oil theft is being perpetuated by some mafia-like groups, with the connivance of some people in the oil industry, using sophisticated engineering methods to carry out their nefarious act.
“Even, more disturbing is that these activities have been going on over the years under the watchful eyes of the military and security personnel; security personnel who are supposed to be protecting these oil pipelines with the large numbers of gun boats to patrol the area, are unfortunately alleged to be involved in these criminal acts.
“The host communities, from where these oil explorations are carried out, but who are victims of the activities, since they cannot dictate to the oil companies and security officials, have always raised the alarm that the quantum of oil theft going on, is nothing compared to what the artisanal refinery operators are doing. What is going on, is a sophisticated criminal act, carried out by a syndicate.
“The investigation to this matter must be full, open and comprehensive, if there is sincerity to unravel what is going on. It is particularly pleasing to note that it is the private security company operated by Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, Tantita Security Services Limited, and the community youths whom he has recruited, that have brought this shameful act to the public and not the NNPCL and its partners or the military.”