High level scrutiny and eventual prosecution awaits 'godfathers' of crude oil thieves in the country as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, Wednesday insisted that the crime is not being perpetrated by ordinary criminals but an organised one that enjoys the backing of highly placed government officials and institutions in the oil industry.
According to Tambuwal, it would amount to self-delusion to assume that those who break pipelines are small time criminals, pointing out that the real culprits are 'investors' and 'godfathers' who invoke their powers to give protection to their accomplices down the ladder of the criminal enterprise.
The speaker noted this when he inaugurated a 17-man ad hoc committee on crude oil theft headed by Hon. Bashir Adamu (Jigawa), charging that the committee should document the seriousness, environmental and socio-economic effect of oil theft to the federal government and the Niger Delta region.
The committee will begin a five-day public hearing at an unspecified date, just as the Speaker disclosed that the House was poised to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law in no distant future.
Tambuwal, who lamented that: "In the last two-and-a-half years, the House has been steadfastly probing the problem, said the committee is mandated to examine the mindless theft of over 100,000 to 400,000 barrels of crude oil daily, leading to the loss of billions in oil revenue.
He also stated that the House needs to gear up and facilitate the upgrading of security operatives capability in probing the problem and bringing those who break the law to book.
He emphasised that the law enforcement agents must be 'emboldened' to approach the crime from "a more sophisticated angle."
Meanwhile, the United States has said though Nigerian experts have proffered several ways to address oil theft and its accompanying revenue loss in the country, implementation seems to be the main challenge.
The US delegation led by the Special Envoy for Energy at the Department of State, Ambassador Carlos Pascual and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy, the Hon. Sharon Burke, who were in Nigeria from December 7 to yesterday in a statement issued by the US Embassy in Abuja yesterday, noted that the delegation was in the country at the request of the federal government.
The delegation met with local, state, and federal officials, as well as with members of Nigerian society.
"Our interlocutors in civil society, the private sector, and many parts of government affirmed that key steps to address oil theft and revenue loss have been well established, particularly by Nigerian experts.
“We heard consistently that now the challenge is implementation," Pascual.
"In all of our meetings, we heard that oil theft and revenue loss is a serious challenge for all Nigerians," said Assistant Secretary Burke.