Elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark, yesterday, alleged that a syndicate of military officers, working in cahoots with disgruntled officials of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, is behind the theft of crude oil running into trillions of naira over the years.
Speaking to reporters in Abuja, he enjoined the Federal Government to institute a judicial inquiry to probe those behind oil theft and sabotage of the nation’s economy.
He also applauded the decision to engage Tantita Security Services Limited, owned by Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo) to arrest the ugly trend, even as he called for the creation of jobs for unemployed youths in the Niger Delta.
Expressing support for establishment of modular refineries to replace illegal refineries in the Niger Delta, he called on authorities to prevail on international oil companies (IOCs) to relocate their operational headquarters to the region.
Stressing the need to revisit the report of Gen. Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, which probed the issue when former President Olusegun Obasanjo was in office, he maintained that Niger Delta youths remain blameless for indulging in what he called “bucket bunkering,” since they have always been at the receiving end of oil firms that deny them jobs opportunities.
Clark said it was unfortunate that those who reap from the theft of crude oil live far above their means in Abuja and other major cities of the world without any fear of scrutiny by anti-graft and law enforcement agencies.
He said: “Today, people now build houses in Abuja, ride big cars, fly private jets, and you ask, what is the occupation of these people? Nobody knows. And nobody would ask. Some of these people, in the morning, go to church for blessing, and they are seated in the front seats of the church. What type of country is this?”
He said: “It is dangerously incredible that crude oil theft, despite all the security around, has assumed wider dimension, to the extent that the quantity of crude oil we export today is less than the quantity being stolen by a gang of thieves of various designations.
“The stealing of crude oil is a well managed cartel of government officials, the oil companies and the security agents. Therefore, it is unfair and unjust to accuse the inhabitants of the oil-producing areas or host communities of being responsible for stealing crude oil.
“While not defending these host communities, the stealing of crude oil being carried out by these group of individuals is very minimal or negligible, compared with the industrial stealing by some international organisations, in collaboration with some members of security forces.
“The host communities of the Niger Delta people are not involved in the marketing and lifting of oil of this magnitude. Today, the people of the Niger Delta are among the poorest people in the country. This cannot continue forever.
“Due to my constant criticism against the Federal Government and NNPCL on the operation of the oil industry in the Niger Delta and consistent drawing of the attention of the Federal Government and NNPCL about employment policy in the oil industry, where majority of the workers, particularly at the managerial cadres, are northerners, I have been singled out and branded an enemy of the Federal Government and anti-north.”
Clark, who was reacting to the recent discovery of large-scale oil theft at Yokri, close to Forcados terminal, said it was now clear that the impression of massive oil theft by Niger Delta youths was deliberately created by oil industry officials to cover their criminal acts.
He contended that none of the youths in the Niger Delta could hire a boat, like the MT African Pride, from abroad, for the purpose of stealing crude oil.
Justifying why he pointed accusing fingers at soldiers, he said: “The news that there is an illicit four-kilometer pipeline, through which crude oil is being siphoned, goes to confirm what I have always said over the years, and what the leaders of the Niger Delta have been shouting about, that the issue of oil theft is being perpetrated by some mafia-like groups, with the connivance of some people in the oil industry, using sophisticated engineering methods to carry out their nefarious act.
“Even, more disturbing is that these activities have been going on over the years under the watchful eyes of the military and security personnel; security personnel who are supposed to be protecting these oil pipelines with the large numbers of gun boats to patrol the area, are unfortunately alleged to be involved in these criminal acts.
“The investigation into this matter must be full, open and comprehensive, if there is sincerity to unravel what is going on.”