“We went through situations where gaps were created between host communities and oil companies, and unfortunately, criminality set in,” Mr Okowa disclosed.
He explained that reviewing oil surveillance contracts based on performance of the contractors and engagement of host communities would ensure effectiveness in securing the nation’s oil and gas assets.
Mr Okowa added that the challenge of oil-theft was huge, given the level it had assumed, but expressed happiness with steps taken by the authorities to curb the menace.
“I am glad that we are discussing this hydra-headed issue which impacts directly on our economy and the environment. It impacts on the health of the people and sustainability of the environment and I am glad that we are taking some steps because there are so many issues that led us to this,” said the Delta governor.
He added, “We went through situations where gaps were created between host communities and oil companies, and unfortunately criminality set in. It has gone so bad but we are doing our best as a state. I am also glad with this collaboration.”
The governor said it was pertinent to review the surveillance contracts of the oil facilities to ensure community involvement and said it was often difficult to secure the facilities, especially when the persons given the contracts did not have adequate information on the environment or not have the buy-in of host communities.
“We know that the impact of the nefarious activities on the health of the people cannot be immediately ascertained and this collaboration is, therefore, very imperative,” he stressed. “Any measure that will deliberately reduce the level of oil thefts is definitely worth supporting, and as a state government, we pledge our continued support.”
He noted that investment of the communities would be needed because “there are some parts of the creeks that cannot” be accessed by the surveillance contractor.
“The surveillance contracts should be tied to performance such that when there are oil thefts, you terminate the contract and it is always good that communities are involved because they know the environment better,” Mr Okowa said.
He, however, flayed the oil companies for not keeping faith with their memorandum of understanding (MOUs), thereby causing the stakeholders to lose confidence in the system.
Mr Okowa further explained that when oil companies failed to sign or implement MOUs, “it becomes very difficult for the state government to mediate when there are issues.”
He noted that the security agencies must heighten their operations and they need to be resourced to enable them to also increase their level of surveillance and “for this to succeed, there must be sincerity on the part of all stakeholders.”
Mr Sylva said the team was in Asaba to seek the support and buy-in of the state government on measures to be adopted to check oil theft.
He said oil theft had become a national emergency, especially as the nation had not been able to meet its OPEC production quota.
“As a country we cannot sustain this kind of theft perpetually. Our production has dropped drastically to very unsustainable levels; so, we have decided to take the bull by the horn by putting some structures in place,” Mr Sylva explained. ”Those structures cannot function effectively without the collaboration of the state government.”
Group CEO of NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari, said Nigeria was currently losing about $2 billion monthly to vandals, with its attendant effect on environmental degradation.
“As a country, we hardly meet our OPEC production quantum of 1.99 million barrels per day with our current production level of 1.4 million barrels per day which is currently being threatened by the activities of these economic saboteurs,” he said. “This has done extensive damage to the environment and losing $1.9 billion every month is colossal, considering the nature of the global economy at the moment.”