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NEC seeks special courts to try oil thieves, vandals

Sunday Ode, Abuja

The National Economic Council (NEC) on Thursday urged the Federal Government to establish special courts for speedy trial of oil thieves and pipelines vandals.

This advise is part of the recommendations by an ad-hock committee set up the council on crude theft, prevention and control which the council approved at its meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Brirfing State House correspondents after the NEC meeting, Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Raar Admiral John Jonah (retd) listed other recommendations of the committee at the council meeting held in the Presidential Villa, Abuja to include engagement of traditional rulers to sensitize their communities on the criminal and environmental dangers of oil theft and  increase in refining capacity of the domestic refineries through relocation/co-locating smaller cost-efficient refineries within time frame of 12 – 24 months.

Other recommendations are “focus on restoring upstream production by positively engaging host communities to put the current militancy to an end.

“Focus on improving Government funding in the upstream sector where funding has been less than 30 percent.

“Relieve  government of monthly cash-call funding and create a sustainable self-funding arrangement while it continues to engage the general public and all stakeholders by providing relevant information and education.”

The deputy governor said the recommendations of the council borne out of the need to halt the menace of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism in the Southern part of the country.

Rear Admiral Jonah was joined at the press briefing by Governor of Kogi state Yayaha Bello, the deputy governor of Enugu State Cecelia Ezeilo and the minister of Budget and National Planning Udoma Udo Udoma.

According to Rear Admiral John, the committee found out that among issues responsible for crude oil theft were, inadequate operational patrol vessels to conduct patrol of entire pipeline network and massive unemployment among youths in the region.

According to him, the NEC also found that non availability of petroleum products in the Niger Delta Area was also responsible for reoccurrence illegal bunkering.

He said the committee which was set up by council in 2013 consulted widely with relevant stakeholders including the Armed Forces Joint Task Force (JTF), Oil Companies, Oil Producing States, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) among others before arriving at the recommendations.

In his remark, the Kogi state governor said the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emiefele, briefed council on the update of bailout funds giving to the states.

He said the CBN Governor reported that 30 States had so far benefited with the salary bailout as at 18th May, 2016 out of the 35 States that  applied for the Excess Crude Account-backed loans

Citing the briefubg to Council by the Minister of State for Petroleum Dr. Ibe Kachukwu,
Governor Yahaya told reporters that fuel scarcity was due to non availability of FOREX as a result of significant decline in government foreign earnings due to 60% drop in global crude oil price compared to 2014.

“NNPC supply dynamics had crumbled and NNPC is now straining to supply over 90% of the national demand for PMS from the 48 percent it was designed to supply.

“Prevalent hoarding,
smuggling and diversion of the product have reduced volumes available for citizens and end users.

“Scarcity has created abnormal increase in prices resulting in our people paying an average of N150 – N300 per litre,” the governor added.

He explained that there was no provision for subsidy in 2016 Appropriation as current estimated subsidy claim per month is N16.4 billion

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