By Desmond Ejibas, Port Harcourt.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Silva, has charged security agencies to stamp out crude oil theft before the end of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration on May 29.
Silva gave the charge while addressing troops of Operation Delta Safe during his visit to military formations in Port Harcourt on Thursday.
The minister visited Nigeria Air Force 97 Special Operations Group and Nigeria Navy Ship Pathfinder to re-assess the ongoing fight against oil theft.
The minister said that the president was committed to total eradication of oil theft before leaving office on May 29.
He said: “We were here a few months ago with a charge and mandate from President Buhari to ensure complete eradication of oil theft in the Niger Delta.
“Since then, we have seen a significant improvement, meaning that you (military and other security outfits) took the charge and mandate of the president very seriously.
“Therefore, Mr. President sent us here with a message of commendation to you for your gallantry in the fight against oil theft,” he said.
Silva said that Buhari had declared total war against those stealing national assets, thereby depriving the people of the benefits of such assets.
He commended the armed forces and other security outfits for the reduction in crude oil theft and illegal bunkering in the country.
“I am happy to announce that there is significant improvement in crude oil production, with both Nigerians and the international community acknowledging the improvement.
“However, we should not rest on our oars but we must ensure that stealing of crude oil is 100-per-cent eradicated in the country.
“So, we urge you to redouble your efforts in completing the job of ending oil theft in the Niger Delta,” Silva said.
Also speaking, Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor, attributed the increasing oil production and export to the sustained fight against oil theft by the military and sister security agencies, with support from the government.
He recalled that before the president gave the military the marching order to tackle crude oil theft, production was very low.
“Currently, crude oil theft is on a steady decline, indicating that we are on the right path.
“The reduction also indicates that there is the need for everyone to put their hands on the plough through collective efforts,” added.
On his part, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Awwal Gambo, attributed the reduction in crude oil theft to improved synergy between the navy and sister security agencies.
He said that the recent arrest of a foreign merchant ship, MT Heroic Idun, suspected to be involved in crude oil theft was an indication that the fight against oil theft was real.
“The arrest of MT Heroic Idun will serve as deterrent to those who are stealing our crude.
“On Jan. 10, the vessel and its crew will be arraigned at the High Court here in Port Harcourt,” he added.