The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, has stated that it would call out its teeming members to a rally against the Federal Government’s inability to hold accountable and prosecute oil theft perpetrators in Nigeria.
The oil workers, who threatened to withdraw their services if nothing was done urgently, said the rally would commence today by 9 am in the streets of Abuja, Kaduna, Lagos and Warri simultaneously.
The PENGASSAN National President, Festus Osifo, who disclosed this at a news conference in Abuja, also 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, Osifor 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.
“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”, he said.
“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”, he noted.
“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’, Osifo added.
“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”, he maintained.
The PENGASSAN boss therefore called on the service chief, “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”, he stated.
Speaking further, he said, “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 decried that as a result due to oil theft, Nigeria can no longer meet its 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.
The PENGASSAN boss revealed 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, due to the cartels that are feasting on it and crumbling the economy.