Abuja — Miffed by the perennial economic sabotage of oil theft against Nigeria, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, yesterday, said government must rise to halt the social malaise and arrest the thieves.
Both presiding officers of the national assembly spoke during the presentation of 2023 budget proposal by President Muhammadu Buhari before a joint session of the national parliament on Friday.
Enraged by the unhealthy development and its negative impact on the economy, Lawan specifically said that oil thieves have declared war on the country.
He said that about 1 million barrels of oil were being lost on daily basis, saying that such was unacceptable.
He said: “Mr. President, our economy is still challenged by dearth of revenues. The main source of revenue to the Nigerian Government is Oil and Gas. We always consider the diversification of the economy as crucial and its indeed crucial. The idea of deploying our revenues from the Oil and Gas to support the diversification into real sectors like Agriculture, Manufacturing, Mining, etc is now under serious threat. The large scale and massive stealing of our Oil, is concerning, as this reduces drastically the revenues available to the Government.
“With conflicting figures, projections have put our losses from this malaise at between 700,000 to 900,000 barrels of crude Oil per day, leading to about 29 to 35 per cent loss in Oil revenue in the first quarter of 2022. This represents an estimated total fall from N1.1 trillion recorded in the last quarter of 2021 to N790 billion in the first quarter of this year.
“The situation has worsened. Recently, the loss of our Oil has reached 1 million barrels per day. Translated into monetary terms, our loss is monumental. The figures show we are not able to meet the OPEC daily quota of 1.8million barrels per day.
“Mr. President, I consider the Oil thieves the worst enemies of our country. The thieves have declared war on our country and our people. I strongly feel that if we do not take the necessary measures to stop the thieves immediately, our economy will be devastated, as efforts to provide infrastructure and diversification of the economy would both be thwarted. It is time to take drastic and desperate measures against the thieves.
“Mr. President, the situation becomes more unfortunate if we factor in the Budget deficit estimated at N7 trillion and the grim prospect of its increase to about N11.30 trillion as presented in the 2023 – 2025 Medium Term Expenditure Framework / Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP). Your Excellency, we can reduce the deficit by stopping the theft.”
Lawan also harped on the need to remove some government agencies from direct funding to help shore up revenue for the country.
The agencies included Ngeria Ports Authority, (NPA), Nigeria Communications Commission, (NCC), Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA) amongst others.
“We can also consider other options to source more revenues for government. I believe that it is imperative to review the waivers and concessions government has granted to the tune of Six Trillion Naira. In a difficult time like this, some of the waivers may no longer be justified. In the same vein, we should consider taking off some of the major revenue generating agencies from direct funding by placing them on cost of collection of revenues, as we did for Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Nigeria Customs Service.
“In this regard, agencies like Nigeria Ports Authority, (NPA), Nigeria Communications Commission, (NCC), Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, (NIMASA), etc can be given encouraging cost of collections of revenues. The National Assembly Committees on Finance and the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning should jointly look into this matter immediately.
“The condition would require courageous fiscal policy to redress, by reducing the deficit, not just to avoid further increases in our debts, but to ensure macro-economic stability, grow confidence in the system and guarantee sustainable economic growth. The National Assembly will support policy frameworks geared towards prudence, transparency and accountability through rigorous appropriation”, he said.
The Senate President also called on the attention of the government to the flooding that was ragging and ravaging some parts of the country.