The House of Representatives on Wednesday, inaugurated a special committee on oil theft in a bid to address one of the threats to the nation’s economy.
At a ceremony in Abuja, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, said the country was losing an estimated 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day due to theft, vandalism and other criminal activities.
The development, according to the lawmakers has caused the nation a great deal in the form of revenue loss, environmental disasters, threats to regional peace and security, the proliferation of arms as well as a poor investment climate.
According to the speaker, the nation is incurring losses of oil revenues estimated at N1.29 trillion annually due to industrial-scale theft.
He explained that the committee’s primary objective was to determine the proximate and remote causes of oil theft and recommend remedial measures to the parliament.
Abbas said, “We set up this special committee to underscore our unwavering commitment to protect the nation’s resources for the good of all our citizens and to punish the perpetrators of these dreadful crimes.
“I charge you, therefore, to investigate all dimensions of oil theft, focusing on the actions of all actors, including criminal gangs, militia groups, the local populace, company employees and security agencies.
“I urge the committee members to approach your mandate with diligence, objectivity, a sense of urgency, and patriotism.
“The findings and recommendations from your work will also serve as a foundation for sustainable solutions rather than ad hoc measures.
“I also expect your efforts to contribute significantly to enhancing the integrity of our oil sector and promoting sustainable development.
“I call upon all stakeholders, including government agencies, industry players, security agencies, civil society organisations, and the general public, to extend their full cooperation to this special committee for it to deliver on its mandate,” he said.
Mr Abbas who represents Zaria Federal Constituency, Kaduna State, said that Nigeria was facing huge financial challenges due to rising expenditures and falling revenues.
He recalled that the proposed revenue and expenditure in 2023 stood at N9.73 trillion and N20.51 trillion, respectively.
The speaker added that there was a fiscal deficit of N10.78 trillion, or about 4.78 per cent of the GDP.
According to him, this deficit is the largest in Nigeria’s history, and with a budget more than double the proposed revenue, the country is faced with the gap.
For this reason, the House will significantly raise the targets for all government revenue-generating agencies.
“I am convinced these agencies can generate much more than they currently do.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Committee, Ado Doguwa (APC-Kano State), said the record from the National Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative report 2021 indicated that the oil and gas sector accounted for 72.26 per cent of Nigeria’s total exports and government foreign exchange.
He said the sector accounted for 40.55 per cent of government revenue and provided 19,171 jobs.
Mr Doguwa said that despite the seemingly robust contribution of the oil and gas sector to the national economy, the country has yet to derive maximum benefits from its abundant hydrocarbon resources.
“Oil theft is a large-scale illegal business estimated to be worth $133 billion per year globally
“This makes it the world’s biggest theft of a natural resource and is also considered to be the number one most smuggled natural resource globally.
“From the 2021 NEITI, it is estimated that between 2019 and 2021, Nigeria lost 643 million barrels of crude, amounting to $48 billion, from thefts.
“A recent report by a presidential investigative panel affirms the apparent micro-economic impact of crude oil theft.
“The report states that with oil theft and illegal bunkering taking as much as 200,000 to 400,000 barrels per day of the country’s oil production at the onset of these illegalities to now more than 800,000 barrels per day, the country’s fiscal stability is therefore threatened.
“The report further painted a frightening scenario where losses to oil thieves and official leakages could overtake official receipts of all oil revenues into the Nigerian treasury,” he said.