Hand over French ship to EFCC, Reps tell NavyArmed Forces, EFCC Politics, House, Legislature Tuesday, June 26th, 2012
The House of Representatives Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream)/Navy has directed the Nigerian Navy to hand over the French ship, MT Vannessa, which was impounded on June 9 for allegedly being in possession of 8.5 million barrels of the country’s crude oil, to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Announcing the decision of the committee after members voted on the issue during a public hearing on the rising cases of bunkering and operation of illegal refineries, particularly in the Niger Delta region, in Abuja on Tuesday, its chairman, Mr. Ajibola Muraina, said the directive was to prevent a “situation where Nigerians will be told that the ship has disappeared.”
According to a report by Saturday PUNCH, the ship was allegedly stealing about 500,000 barrels of crude oil before it was intercepted.
The ship is currently anchored at the Brass Terminal, Bayelsa State.
The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke; Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Austine Oniwon; and heads of parastatals and agencies directly involved in oil operations, however, shunned the hearing.
Their absence was condemned by the committee, which threatened to invoke constitutional provisions to compel them to appear.
“They are engaging in condemnable acts,” a member of the committee, Mr. Andrew Uchendu, said.
Mr. Daniel Reyenieju, observed that the attitude of the government officials sent signals that “Nigeria does not need the money that is being lost through bunkering.”
“Our economy is predicated on oil, yet the people who are directly responsible for how the industry functions are not here”, he said.
On his part, Muraina accused people in government of displaying “much ignorance” about the powers of the legislature.
Meanwhile, the Managing Director, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, Mr. Mutiu Sunmonu, said the country was losing about $5bn (N785bn) annually to crude oil theft.
Sunmonu, who said that oil bunkering was pervasive in the country, warned that the loss could spiral in the years ahead if no urgent measures were taken by the Federal Government to contain the situation.
He said on daily basis, no less than 150,000 barrels of crude were being taken away illegally from the country.
“The situation is alarming; bunkering has become an industry. You have barges, canoes and vessels plying the coastal areas. There are illegal refineries all over the Niger Delta,” he added.
Sunmonu said besides the economic loss as a result of bunkering, there were security implications for the country.
“Then, of course, you talk about the environmental degradation, which is worse. There is a big security issue when a foreign ship can come into your territory at will to take your crude without any resistance,” the SPDC boss said.
He recalled that the country faced a similar situation in 2004 but was able to contain it when the government took immediate measures to bring it under control.
According to him, the measures seem not to be working anymore or they have been relaxed, allowing those engaged in bunkering to have a free reign.
Sunmonu said that to address the problem, the government must “enforce law and order,” and strengthen security patrols in the creeks of the Niger Delta.
Giving graphic details on how the industry operates, the Shell boss informed the committee that there was a network involving barges, canoes and ocean-going vessels.
He explained that the barges and canoes usually get the crude from the source and transfer it to the vessels already stationed on the high sea.
“So, our concern should be to cut off the export market; that is where the money is lost. There will always be some local stealing of crude, but so long as they are unable to export it, the business will not be attractive,” he added.
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