From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) has thrown its weight behind the decision of the federal government to set up a ‘Special Investigative Panel on Oil Theft and Losses in Nigeria’, noting that oil theft has robbed the country a whopping $46.16 billion in revenue between 2009 and 2020.
NEITI in a statement described the decision as bold, courageous and timely, considering the fact that oil theft has assumed a frightening dimension in recent times and has wreaked monumental havoc in oil production and the country’s revenue generation.
“This information and data were provided by an average of eight companies audited over the years”, the statement noted.
NEITI further lamented that it was regrettable that at a time Nigeria’s economy was largely dependent on oil revenues, some Nigerians would choose to collude with foreign nationals to steal and sabotage the main sources of revenue for the federation.
The Agency particularly expressed delight over the collaboration between Offices of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and that of the National Security Adviser in coordinating the investigations and its wisdom to appoint NEITI in this Special Panel in view of the Agency’s strategic relevance to guide the Panel with reliable information and data.
NEITI in the statement also explained that as an agency with legitimate interests and mandates in enthroning transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector, it will seek technical support where necessary from 57 member countries of the global Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to address the international dimension of oil theft in the work of the investigative panel.
NEITI further disclosed that after a careful review of the Terms of Reference of the Panel on Oil Theft Investigation, it found the terms of reference of the Committee, comprehensive, incisive, and attainable.
The Panel is among other things required to establish the ramifications of crude oil theft/losses in Nigeria; ascertain the causative factors immediate and remote of crude oil theft/ losses in the country; with the widest possible amplitude, identify persons/entities whether public, private or foreign, involved in the criminal enterprise; Ascertain the illegal insertion into the Trans Escravos Pipelines (TEP) around Yokri area in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State.
Other recommendations in the Terms of Reference are to establish the level of culpability of identified persons/entities in the enterprise; Examine the specific roles of Regulatory Agencies; Security Agencies Tiers/Arms of Government and International Oil Companies(IOCs) in aiding and abating the criminal enterprise; Assess the efficacy of the security architecture/arrangement in tackling crude oil theft/losses and associated petroleum products and recommend appropriate, commensurate and sufficiently, deterrent sanctions on all those culpable. The Panel is also expected to recommend steps, procedures, and processes to be taken by the government to eliminate the enterprise in the industry to prevent future occurrences.
NEITI gave assurances that, working with other members of the Panel who have been carefully selected to carry out the oil theft investigation, the agency will rely more on its multi-stakeholders to support the work of the Committee.
NEITI, therefore, appealed to civil society, the media, development partners and extractive companies to devote time, energy, and resources to provide reliable information and data to the panel through the open call for submission of Memoranda from individuals and as groups to the Panel.
In a related development, NEITI has renewed its call to the Federal Government to establish a similar Special Investigation Panel on the Glencore Bribery Scandal.
Glencore is one of Nigeria’s oil traders that was convicted in the United States and Britain for paying bribes in various sums to some government officials in Nigeria, Cameroun, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Brazil, and Venezuela over a period of ten years.
The global public disclosure about Glencore was made by the United States Department of Justice which later convicted Glencore of the said crime. Glencore has pleaded guilty to the charges and agreed to pay over $1.1 billion to the United States Government.
Some Nigerian government officials in the oil and gas industry were among those who were alleged to have received the bribe payments to facilitate and secure crude oil contracts and other business advantages for Glencore.
Following NEITI’s request to the Federal Government to launch investigation into the Glencore Bribery Scandal, the assurances were received by NEITI that matter is under investigation.
NEITI in the statement strongly believed that a special investigative panel on Glencore Bribery Scandal will fast-track the investigations towards apprehending the culprits in view of the huge implications to the country’s investment drive and global image.