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Civil Society Groups seek Prosecution of oil thieves in Nigeria

By Eric Ojo, South-Africa
Nigeria's Minister of Petroleum Diezani Allison-Madueke

Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum Diezani Allison-Madueke

Disturbed by the nefarious activities of those involved in illegal bunkering and oil theft in Nigeria, civil society organizations (CSOs) in the country have called for the prosecution of culprits by the relevant agencies of government as a deterrent to others.

The CSOs said oil thieves whether small or big need to be prosecuted accordingly, noting that oil theft has risen to an alarming proportion in Nigeria as a result of the collaboration of highly placed individuals, security forces and key players in government which has in turn resulted in unacceptable consequence of further despoiling the Niger Delta environment and reducing earnings to government.
The group lamented that the nation’s oil wealth which is produced in the Niger Delta region, has deepened poverty and deprivation for the majority of the people while the benefits of the oil and gas sector accrues only to a few people and excludes the poor and vulnerable especially women.
To redress the situation, the CSOs noted that it is imperative to democratize the political leadership and resource governance in order to enthrone openness and accountability in the country’s oil and gas sector, adding that proper management of the nation’s natural resources will go a long way in ensuring development that is economically viable, socially beneficial as well as ecologically sustainable.
The group however harped on the need for government to create alternative livelihood opportunities for those involved in oil theft and illegal refining and also encourage the set up of small scale refineries as well as the adaptation and development of the local technologies presently utilised by the illegal refiners as a means of addressing the challenges of product scarcity and importation.
They also added that government needs to ensure constant supply of sufficient quantities of petroleum products in Nigeria and that civil society groups including the media should carry out sensitization and awareness campaign to the practitioners to enlighten them on the environmental and health consequences of illegal refining and gas flaring activities in the Niger Delta.
The CSOs made the call in a communique issued at the end of one-day workshop on Transparency and Accountability in the Oil and Gas Sector which was organised in Asaba, Delta State by the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) with the support of Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA).
Participants at the workshop also stressed the need to ensure appropriate pricing of petroleum products in Nigeria, adding that there was urgent need for the revival of domestic refining through existing refineries and promotion of new refineries.
The CSOs equally noted that appropriate incentives need to be worked out to attract new investment in refining. They also pointed out that operations in the oil and gas sector is very opaque thus giving room for corruption and lack of transparency and accountability in the sector.
The communique further suggested that there was need for advocacy by civil society groups to relevant committees in the national Assembly to ensure the early passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into Law.
“The National Assembly needs to take urgent steps to pass the PIB. More so, they need to take a critical look at Sections 190(3), 191; Exemption clauses as captured in Section 124, 149 and 160 as well as Confidentiality Clauses contained in the draft PIB to ensure that the Act when passed into law will address the challenges of transparency and accountability in the sector to meet the expectations of Nigerians”, it added.
On participation of women in the oil and gas sector, it noted that there should be more activities around awareness creation on the opportunities for women participation in the industry, adding that CSOs will personally step down the lessons learnt in their individual communities.
“There is need for research and documentation on participation, challenges and cultural issues affecting women in the oil and gas sector, more advocacy to policy makers and change agents/champions on need for increased women participation and a working group; Women participation in Petroleum Industry Network (WOPPIN) should be formed to advocate for increased women participation in the oil and gas sector”, the communique further recommended.

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