Crude surrender – The Nation

It appears the Federal Government is tragically accepting oil theft because it is less injurious than militancy

Bloomberg’s report that militancy in the Niger Delta region is now giving way to direct stealing of crude oil would simply mean that the country may be going to the dogs.  According to the report, Nigeria has been losing about 100,000 barrels of crude oil daily to the new pastime in the oil-rich region in the last few months. Between 2014 and 2015, the country lost millions of barrels of crude oil to the oil thieves whose activities picked up in 2017 and has been growing incrementally, even if it is nothing near the preceding years’ disruption levels.

Apparently one reason why the new illegality is thriving is because it pays, somehow, both the thieves and the Federal Government than militancy which focused more on sabotaging the economy and paralysing the government by blowing up oil pipelines. A lawyer and minority rights activist, Ledum Mitee, said the phenomenon is becoming widespread because the thieves have realised that they could make money from the new way instead of just crippling the economy which does not benefit them in any way, even if injurious to the government and the national economy. As a matter of fact, the thieves see some kind of role reversal in their new approach; one in which the Federal Government is the authentic thief and they the rightful owners of the oil. “They believe the oil is theirs and the government is the thief. “People now realise that instead of just cutting pipelines to spite the government, they can make money out of it,” Mitee was quoted as saying.

Bloomberg provides further insight into the booming business, which, according to it, has provided jobs for about 500,000 persons. “On one level, theft is probably a more palatable option for Nigeria and the companies operating there than attacks by militants.

“About 100,000 barrels a day are being taken out of pipelines, whereas militancy halted at least eight times that amount at one stage three years ago.”

What can be deduced from what is happening is that the country is moving from a rogue philosophy to roguery. It is a case of militants now becoming criminals. In the past, the agitation in the Niger Delta had centred on resource control and environmental pollution, at least so we thought. Although successive military governments had neglected the region for far too long, there has been some attention on the region in the past few years, especially since the Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua years when the government introduced amnesty programme for the militants. Under the arrangement, the militants were encouraged to drop their arms and embrace the various measures that the Yar’Adua government instituted to cater to their needs. Some of them were even sent to universities abroad under the amnesty programme.

Before this arrangement, the militants’ activities had crippled the economy, reducing crude export to less than half of the usual volume. Things however began to pick up again with the militants beating a retreat, in acknowledgment of their acceptance of the amnesty programme.

This is why what looks like beatification of stealing that is now going on in the region is puzzling. Could it be that the militants no longer find the amnesty programme beneficial? Or is it just a case of the dog returning to its vomit? Well, as Bloomberg rightly pointed out, the ‘new deal’ appears attractive because of its ‘win-win’ appeal to both the oil thieves and the Federal Government; at least the pipelines are not being deliberately ruptured again, which would cost the government a lot of money to fix.

But then, there is the need to check the new trend because, with time, the number of those engaging in it will continue to swell, for as long as the people find the allures irresistible. The implication is that it might get to a time when the nation’s loss would become unbearable as it would be eating into the revenue. We call on the government to stop this growing trend before it becomes a festering sore.

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