Nigeria: Ex-Ministers, Diplomats Ask Buhari to Institute Judicial Inquiry Into Oil Theft

A forum of former foreign affairs ministers and diplomats under the aegis of the Academy of International Affairs has challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a judicial board of inquiry to address the root cause of crude oil theft and fuel subsidy scandal.

The academy, purely established for open and private debate on the emerging new world order, also described as a big shame, the federal government’s decision to award pipeline surveillance contract to Tantita Security Services Limited, a private company owned by former leader of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, Government Ekpemupolo (a.k.a Tompolo).

In a statement by its President and former Minister of External Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi yesterday, the academy observed that it was an exercise in futility, “to ask some of those suspects involved in this scandal to go round in search of illegal pipelines and oil criminals.”

It also observed that the opaque subsidy regime on oil imports and the volume of daily consumption of the same had equally become yet another scandal in Nigeria, which even the Controller General of Customs, had called attention to.

Given the antecedents of such private interests in insurgency and militancy in the Niger Delta, the academy claimed that Tantita Security Services Limited would only present a wishy-washy report that would absolve them from any blame.

On these grounds, the academy implored the Minister of Petroleum Resources, who is also the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to appreciate the urgent need for collective global action on this unwholesome trend which has gone on for too long.

It specifically challenged the president, “to institute a Judicial Board of Inquiry oil theft in Nigeria, covering crude oil and petroleum products, the unending turn around maintenance of refineries and other petroleum.”

It justified the institution of judicial commission of inquiry on the need, “to unearth the causes of oil thefts, prosecute the culprits and put an end to the scandals to rekindle Nigeria’s enviable position in the world oil market and provide substantial revenues for the country.

“It is also disheartening to learn that illegal oil bunkering has been going on for a long time under the watch of government officials including many of the security personnel that are charged with guarding the most vital source of revenue earnings of this country.”

The academy alleged that some foreign oil companies whose pipelines had been tapped and vandalised between their production fields to their export terminals, had also been involved in the oil scandals.

It also claimed that such oil multinationals often connived with the criminals by keeping mute as the Nigerian oil, “is being illegally bunkered and shipped away for sale in the international market: the proceeds of which are laundered in international financial institutions and banks particularly in tax free havens.”

The academy cited investigations carried out by reputable organisations including the past Report of Justice Ayo Irikefe Tribunal of Inquiry of 1978/79 on loss of billions of oil revenues to support its claims.

Due to oil thefts by terrible cartels, it observed that Nigeria, which had been enjoying comfortable OPEC quotas of about two million barrels per day of crude oil supplies to the world market, had now been reduced to less than one million barrels per day, quite below its current OPEC quota.

It further observed that the most troubling aspect of the situation was that despite the presence of armed security personnel, including the army, navy, police, security and civil defense, customs and others, apart from the NNPC, oil thefts had been going on with reckless abandon.

It rhetorically asked: “Is it not a big shame that a private company, Tanita Security Services Limited, owned by High Chief Government Ekpemupolo (a.k.a Tompolo) had to be employed where Nigerian security failed, and Tompolo’s company discovered and unfolded hidden though an open secret, export pipelines being utilised by oil thieves to illegally bunker our vital resources.

“Certainly this sophisticated 4-kilometre pipeline discovered by Tompolo and other pipelines around the oil producing areas in the Niger Delta and the creeks could not have been constructed and installed by the natives without being found out by the Nigerian security.

“Is it not nerve-racking that the Ministers of Petroleum Resources for many years have been the presidents of this country and under their watch, so much oil revenues have been stolen resulting in large amounts of our revenues going in to dangerous cartels and private hands rather than government coffers? This is totally unacceptable,” the academy rhetorically asked in its statement.

It explained how late President Umaru Yar’Adua exhibited strong political will to address the vicious trend of crude oil theft and fuel subsidy scandal, to which he devoted his address in the 2009 Nations General Assembly.

It further reflected on how the late president termed the illegal oil proceeds, “blood money” at the assembly of global leaders while he called for concerted international support and action against this criminal conspiracy and fraud against Nigeria.

Likewise, the academy lamented the impact of the oil theft on the country’s diplomatic and foreign relations, which it claimed, had culminated in the closure of diplomatic missions abroad, especially at the time Nigeria’s foreign reserves dwindled.

It said the country’s diplomatic missions, “abroad are being financed in foreign currencies. Unfortunately, each time our foreign reserves dwindled, there is always the misguided tendency of shutting down some of our diplomatic missions.

“This is exemplified by the recent actions of the federal government, which has just set up another committee to consider reducing among other things the number for diplomatic missions abroad.

“Such actions are counterproductive to promoting and projecting our national interest, impede our voice from being effectively heard globally, and hamper our quest to being a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

“There are many sources of leakages in the economy such as financial frauds by certain government officials, in addition to oil thefts and illegal bunkering that should be tackled frontally instead of focusing on reducing, instead of strengthening, our diplomatic missions abroad,” the academy suggested.”

With former Director General, Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Prof. Bola Akinterinwa as its Secretary, the academy comprises Lt. General Agwai Martin Luther; Prof. Joy Ogwu; Mr. Odein Ajumogobia (SAN); Prof. Jide Osuntokun; Prof. Alaba Ogunsanwo; Prof. Akin Oyebode, and Director General of NIIA, Prof. Eghosa Osagie, among others

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