By Gladys Nweke
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Center (CISLAC), in partnership with Transparency International-Defence and Security Programme, has hosted a one-day validation meeting and media report launch on ‘Military Involvement in Oil Theft in the Niger Delta’.
The event which was attended by major stakeholders, heads of civil society organizations, traditional leaders, community representatives and representatives of media houses in Rivers State was fashion a way out of the quagmire of security personnel’s involvement in oil theft in Niger Delta.
The principal convener of the program, Mr Salnudeen Hashim, the programme manager of CISLAC explained that the alleged involvement of security agencies in the Niger Delta region in oil theft is a major concern to the people of the Niger Delta region people, the Nigerian state and to the international communities.
He said after much research into the activities and involvement of some security agencies and the pronouncement of the involvement of the six division GOC in oil theft by Rivers State governor, security agencies’ involvement in oil theft has dented the integrity of the armed forces and has also created economic sabotage in the region, as well as the Nigeria state and this has distanced trust between the communities and security institutions.
Continuing, Mr. Hashim said, for over a year, they have carefully looked through a situation that has become of serious concern and that is how it borders around military involvement in criminality in Niger Delta and now we have narrowed it down to issues that borders around oil theft and of course, some of the revelations have been a little bit of serious concern and one is the fact that it is clear that, there seems to be a level of facilitation of providing security cover to those who are involved in this criminal situation in the region.
“The fundamental issue here is the fact that there seems to be some level of organized criminality amongst security institutions in the region and that is why we have brought this to the public space and of course, the recent revelation of the governor has also in a way provided some level of intelligence to show that this is an issue that everybody needs to be concerned about. So we have to sustain the momentum and not allow the narrative to be swept under the carpet.”
On his part, Chief Jackrich Igbaniama, a traditional ruler in one of the oil host communities in Rivers state said, “Some security personnel who are tasked with the protection of lives and properties of people of the Niger Delta region are alleged to be involved in the perpetrations of criminal activities in the region. And their involvement in crime activities has devastated the society.
Chief Jackrich blamed the involvement of the security agencies in oil theft on the poor welfare being given to them by government. He said; “We know how the politicians are well taken care of. But these people who are tasked with the responsibility of taking care of lives and properties are not adequately taken care of, because of how lucrative oil theft is they indulge in it, the government have a lot to do in improving their welfare.”
At the same vein, His Royal Majesty, Eze, Dr. Leslie N. Eke (JP) Eze Gbakagbaka Oha Evo (111), said that the alarming rate of oil theft in the Niger Delta region is the result of the weakness of government institutions and as a result, money is been lost because of oil theft activities (criminality).
The complexity involved in the extraction of oil and gas is very cumbersome yet people get involved in oil theft. The struggle to leave this embarrassing poverty by oil host communities is overwhelming. The petroleum industries have ended up creating environmental degradation, poverty, kidnapping. If we have something to make us rich and we are not rich, it is something to be bothered about. Oil theft is a key activity of the militant youths and other associates.
The neglect of developmental activities for the oil-producing communities is the cause of agitations of citizens from the oil-producing region. Corruption is another fact that has increased oil theft and it is an endemic war in the oil-producing region. The government increased military presence since 2008, in order to reduce oil theft yet this is not felt. I recommend that because of the involvement of security agencies in oil theft, there should be an ACT, the revenues which government get should be published including owners of oil wells, oil revenues should be made public and there should be strict adherence to security.
Also, the state ICPC representative said oil theft/ oil bunkering is a very serious economic sabotage, so a proper orientation should be giving to security agencies as to define to them their functions in their activities in the Niger Delta region involving oil theft and bunkering will be controlled if not stopped.
Also, Opara Chinwe, a Representative of the state branch of National Orientation Agency (NOA) said, the inability of security agencies in the region to partner with other agencies as well as the citizens in the region has resulted to lack of transparency in their operations in the region. He said that this will strengthen security and citizens cooperation to a large extent in the discharge of security duties in the region.
Mr Opara alleged that it is not all the security agencies in the region that are involved in the perpetrations of oil theft activities
On his part, Comrade Enefa George will, the state chairman of RIVSCO said, The crisis in Niger Delta cannot be resolved without resolving the crisis in the Nigeria state. The crisis in the oil industry is embedded in the Nigeria state.
The oil industry in itself is the facet of imperialism. The crisis embedded in federalism in Nigeria.
Enefa Georgewill recommended a holistic approach in the curbing of oil theft in the Niger Delta region, and one is by imbibing of Naming and shaming of those involved in oil theft.
He also recommended heightening the campaign against oil theft by the use of social media where pictorial and video evidence will be provided by citizens.
Kelechi Amaechi also recommended the capacity boast of the media and CSO’s to enhance proper reportage of oil theft.
Sabastin Kpalap said the implication of the participation of the security agencies’ involvement in oil theft is as a result of government negligence.
In another development, Inyngi Irimagha, chairperson, Gender and development Action said,
The whole value chain boils down to the underdevelopment of the oil-producing region. Different ranks of securities get their own amount of settlement from local oil bunkers. This is the first time the state governor is alleging security involvement.
Also, Fyneface Dumnamene said that in order to curb security involvement in oil theft, the government should involve the expertise of the Nigeria Communication Commission in the monitoring and tracking of every security calls within the region.