Military Pledges Full Support as FG Seeks End to Oil Theft, Raises Output

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*Security forces plan security summit in Niger Delta

*Lokpobiri: Quickest way to revamp economy is to produce, sell more crude 

CHIGOZIE  AMADI

The Nigerian military yesterday pledged its full support towards the efforts of the federal government to minimise oil theft as well as raise the production of the commodity in the Niger Delta.
The military renewed the promise when the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Christopher Musa visited the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources (Oil), Senator Heineken Lokpobiri in his office in Abuja.

At the event, Lokpobiri reiterated that the easiest way to revamp the Nigerian economy is to reduce oil theft in the Niger Delta as well as raise production, given that the price of the commodity in the international market remains high at the moment.
The minister argued that there’s no oil-producing country in the world which takes its security very lightly, explaining that he has full confidence that the Nigerian military, working with the ministry of petroleum and other stakeholders, will get the required results.

“You will agree with me that the quickest way to solving our economic problems is through the oil and gas sector. Today, oil sells for over $90 per barrel. And if we ramp up production and we reduce the level of oil theft and pipeline vandalism, we’ll be able to raise requisite money to be able to fund not only our budget, take care of our forex problems, and then ensure that we stabilise our economy as a country.
“ There’s no country in the world that doesn’t prioritise security and investment in its oil assets. Check it. Anywhere in the world that has oil and gas prioritises – whether it’s Saudi Arabia, whether it’s UAE, whether it’s Qatar, whether it’s Brazil, whether it’s the US – everybody prioritises investment and security of these strategic national assets.

“And that is why, when I heard your name as Chief of Defence Staff, I said this is one appointment that is like putting a round peg in a round hole,” he stated.
According to the minister, by virtue of having served in Bayelsa and in the Niger Delta in the past, the defence chief came prepared for the job.
Lokpobiri pointed out that although oil theft may not be fully eliminated, but it must be fought to a standstill, to allow the country take full advantage of its God-given resources.

“We cannot reduce pipeline vandalism and oil tax to the barest minimum. We cannot completely eliminate it. There’s no way a crime is completely eliminated. But working together with you, we’ll be able to reduce it to the barest minimum so that we’ll be able to benefit from the production of oil and gas, and that is going on.
“So our commitment to you today is that we are going to work very closely with you. We’ll give you all the support that is needed, not just the ministry, but also the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), the other agencies in the oil and gas sector.

“We’ll work very closely with you to ensure that we reduce this menace of pipeline vandalism and illegal refining and oil theft to the barest minimum. Like I said earlier, the federal government has an obligation to ensure that we increase production. And by the time we increase production, we’ll be able to take care of the feedstock needed by the oil refineries that we have,” he added.

As a ministry, Lokpobiri promised to provide all the support needed, so as to  address the problem once and for all.
In his remarks, Musa said that Nigeria must have the conducive environment to explore and exploit its oil, explaining that recently, there have been a lot of improvements in the general environment in the Niger Delta region.
“My office is giving full support to ensure that production levels go up. And once it goes up, Nigeria will benefit from that. We know all the challenges that we’re facing, some of them directly, some of them indirectly.

“But this is to assure you that the armed forces of Nigeria are fully in support of you and your ministry and will continue to provide the necessary support to ensure that the country benefits from the God-given resources that we have.
“I know there are a lot of challenges here and there, but together I know we’ll succeed…Things are looking very positive. There’s lots of improvement within the area. A lot of the issues we’re having, challenges with the illegal refineries, the pollution of the environment, and all these things have gone drastically down, and production is going up,” the CDS stated.

He appealed to all Nigerians to join hands together with the ministry and the security forces to ensure that Nigeria secures its resources, pointing out that if the nation doesn’t take advantage of it now, there may be no certainty for hydrocarbons in the future.
“We know how dynamic the world is now. Things are changing very fast. So we need to really be able to benefit from what we have, so that the economy can thrive well. And once it does that, I’m sure security, too, will improve,” he stressed.

He also hinted that the military could be organising a security summit in the Niger Delta region soon.
“I will not hesitate. We also are looking at the possibility of having a security summit within the general area so that we can look at what are those issues on ground, what are the challenges, and how best do we tackle them together. I’m sure if we do that, we’ll be able to achieve so much from that,” he noted.