Why Nigeria is losing $5 billion to oil thieves
By EMMANUEL UDOM
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a Nigerian. She is the finance minister in a country widely regarded as the giant of Africa and the 8th largest producer of oil in the world.
Though a Nigerian, she has worked at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for years, where she actually rose through the ranks to become the Vice- President of the bank.
It will not be out of place to say that this Igbo woman is conversant with the knitty gritty of running the banking sector at the national and international level.
The word home grown democracy and home economy may sound like German to her. I may be wrong and therefore stand to be corrected or blasted for trying to question the competence of our own Okonjo-iweala. I beg for pardon.
Therefore, as the coordinating minister of our economy, she sure knows where the shoe pinches, through as an economist, the World Bank guru is not a home grown woman.
Beyond these rather flattering preambles, the minister recently raised an alarm that the country is losing on the average about $5billion to oil thieves. I did not confirm whether this whopping figure is daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. But, I have the feeling deep down that it is daily.
Take it or leave it, her alarm or should I say bombshell is timely, legitimate and therefore acceptable at this point in time.
Why, you dare ask? Well, recently some 140 persons and 25 oil companies in Nigeria were indicted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on the allegations of allegedly forging documents to defraud the federal government of money running into billions in naira and other foreign currencies.
Therefore, the anti-graft agency has dragged these persons and companies to various courts to answer to charges of economic saboteurs and convince the judges why they should not be jailed or fined.
The faces and names behind the trials show that illegal bunkering, though criminal and unpatriotic, is lucrative, booming, well organized, and wide spread with good returns on investments.
So, it is not business for the chicken hearted, the cowards and those who cannot dare constituted authorities. Some prominent persons, their sons, daughters, relations and proxies are involved in this illegal and criminal business
While we clap for President Goodluck Jonathan for his successes and failures so far in attempting to do the seemingly impossible- kill corruption, provide social amenities, checkmate insecurity and jail economic saboteurs, let us go beyond the on-going trials of suspected oil thieves and see how best to police our various territorial waters.
If you are not convinced that the country, according to the finance minister is losing this whooping sum to criminals in our Greeks, pay a visit during odd hours to the back waters of Badagry, Ijora, Ikorodu, all in Lagos, Warri in Delta state, Port Harcourt in Rivers state, Eket in Akwa Ibom state and Calabar in Cross River state and you may change your mind, if you come back alive.
Our territorial waters are porous and the Navy, NIMASA and the marine police are not empowered adequately to match the sophisticated network and reach of organized illegal bunkering.
Until the federal government walk the talk and provide adequate funds, communications equipment, logistics, trained personnel, vessel boats and arms and ammunitions to the navy and police to effectively police our Greeks, it could still continue to be business as usual, while the likes of Okonjo-Iweala continues to shout at the top of her voice. God help Nigeria, my beloved country.