Members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria on Thursday commenced a nationwide protest over crude oil theft, but added a scary caveat: oil workers will withdraw their services should the government fail to take decisive action against oil thieves.
Speaking at the march that started from the Unity Fountain in Abuja Thursday, PENGASSAN President, Festus Osifo, reiterated the association’s position on the oil theft which he enunciated the previous day.
On Wednesday, Osifo, at a news conference in Abuja, called on the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force to prosecute and jail their officers who are conniving with criminals to perpetrate the crime.
He noted that in other climes, governments deployed high technology to fight such heinous crimes of sabotage, but despite the damage of oil theft and pipeline vandalism to the nation’s economy, the Federal Government appears to be helpless.
Specifically, Osifo said Nigerians and particularly PENGASAN members are tremendously affected by the menace of oil theft, as oil companies were retrenching workers as a result of incessant losses they incur due to oil theft.
He said: “Government must develop the muscles and political will to go after oil thieves.
“The GMD of NNPC last week said that everybody is involved in the oil theft. By everybody he meant the security agencies, some oil and gas workers, host communities and some other Nigerians. So it is total collusion and connivance. That means that security agencies cannot be exempted from the on-going oil theft.”
“We learnt a few days ago that the Chief of Naval Staff made some beautiful statements, but this issue is beyond a statement. It is beyond blame games. As a Chief of Naval Staff, you send people to the Niger Delta to go and man the waterways but the crude oil is still being stolen on a daily basis on the same waterways.
“Maybe at best, out of the 10 vessels that are stolen, you bring only one and say you have caught the people stealing oil, what then happened to the rest? So the rhetoric must stop. This is the time for us to act.
“Nigerian security men and women now struggle and lobby to go to the Niger Delta to protect oil pipelines and waterways. Yet while they are there, vessels are being stolen every day. Looking at the scenario, you can only imagine what the real motive is.
“Government must wake up and there must be consequences to the management of crude oil security. You cannot send Naval officers, men and women of Nigeria Army and Civil Defence officers to the creeks of Niger Delta and you don’t develop a mechanism to hold them accountable.
“Accountability is key. When you send people to a terminal and oil is being stolen there, how many of the people in that terminal are prosecuted and sent to jail? If there are no consequences to the management, there won’t be solutions.
“The Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff and the Air Force to hold the soldiers and officers they send to protect the waterways and pipelines accountable and anyone that is found guilty should be sent to prison for the purpose of a deterrent.
“What we are saying is that there is total connivance and collusion in the oil theft menace in Nigeria. And that the talks must end while actions must be taken.
“Government is not being responsive to do what it ought to do, the government is not showing the required political will to fight this criminality, and we will withdraw our members and let the country run aground.
“We can no longer sit and watch people who do not know how this oil is produced steal and sell and become millionaires in dollars overnight. We can longer sit and watch our members lose their jobs.”
He lamented that due to oil theft, Nigeria could no longer meet her OPEC quota of 1.8 million barrels of crude oil daily, but struggles to produce a million barrels, because the products are being stolen, while companies are forced to shut down production.
He added that the union has engaged in dialogue with critical stakeholders, agencies of government and service chiefs on how to curb oil theft, but have not achieved the desired result.