From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has been urged to set up a special court to try oil thieves.
Government has also been urged to procure and deploy more combat vehicles and gun boats to the Niger Delta region to prevent further stealing of crude oil and pipelines vandalisation.
These were the recommendations of the Ad-hoc Committee on crude oil theft prevention and control set up by the National Economic Council (NEC).
Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Rear Admiral John Jonah (Retd), who gave an update of the committee’s work set up in 2013, told State House Correspondents, yesterday, after the council’s meeting that they also called for the engagement of traditional rulers to educate youths on the dangers of oil theft. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo presided over the NEC meeting.
Jonah said the committee also recommended the procurement and deployment of appropriate technology in surveillance and combat vehicles/boats in difficult terrain as this would drastically reduce incidents of oil theft and illegal bunkering as well as ensure full benefits of uninterrupted supply.
He said the committee consulted widely with relevant stakeholders, including the Armed Forces Joint Task Force (JTF), Oil Companies, Oil Producing States, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), among others. It found out that the causes of crude oil theft include inadequate operational patrol vessels to conduct patrol of entire pipeline network, massive unemployment among youths in the region and non availability of petroleum products in the Niger Delta area.
On the way forward, the committee recommended increasing the refining capacity of domestic refineries through relocation/co-locating smaller cost-efficient refineries within time frame of 12 – 24 months, focus on restoring upstream production by positively engaging host communities to put the current militancy to an end and focus on improving Government funding in the upstream sector where funding has been less than 30 percent.
It also recommended relieving government of monthly cash-call funding and creating a sustainable self-funding arrangement and continuous engagement of the general public and all stakeholders by providing relevant information and education.
Admiral Jonah revealed that the Excess Crude Account (ECA) as at April stood at $2,259,688,878.06 billion.
He said the interest accrued on the account was $429,903.55 for the month of April 2016 which he said was “a little drop.”
Jonah noted that ad-hoc committee on ECA has endorsed the forensic auditing firms as earlier proposed by the Finance Minister to audit the account.
He said the Vice President has approved the reconstitution of the board of the Niger Delta Power Holding (NDPH) which will be effected in due course.
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State who spoke on bailout funds to states said the 30 States have so far benefited form the salary bailout as at 18th May, 2016.
He added that 35 states have applied for the Excess Crude Account-backed loans.
The Minister of Budget Planning, Udoma Udoma in his remarks at the press briefing, said he made a presention to the council on Strategic Implementation Plan for the 2016 Budget of Change.
Deputy Governor of Enugu State Cecelia Ezeilo, spoke on the presentation on solid minerals made to the council which highlighted Nigeria’s vast potential in the sector.