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Editorial: Empty threats and hollow declarations—NNPCL war on oil theft

The recent declaration of a state of emergency on oil production by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) rings hollow in light of the ongoing and escalating crisis of crude oil theft in Nigeria. Despite the grandiose rhetoric from NNPCL’s Group Chief Executive Officer, Mele Kyari, at the 23rd Nigeria Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition Week, the reality on the ground tells a starkly different story.

Kyari’s proclamation of “war means war” and his assurances that NNPCL possesses the “right tools” to combat the challenges crippling crude oil production are belied by the persistent and worsening theft in the production areas. According to some estimates, the officially declared daily crude production is barely half of what is actually being produced. This discrepancy points to a massive and systematic siphoning off of Nigeria’s crude oil by a network of thieves that remains largely untouched by the current measures.

The NNPCL’s focus on overcoming procedural delays and engaging partners, while necessary, fails to address the root of the problem: the pervasive and entrenched criminal enterprise that is crude oil theft. It is not merely the occasional foreign oil thieves who should be the targets of law enforcement; the major culprits are often prominent players within the industry itself, who operate with impunity.

The current management of NNPCL, despite their public declarations and posturing, has proven woefully inadequate in curbing this menace. There has been a glaring lack of accountability and transparency. Not a single major figure within the industry involved in oil theft has been prosecuted or even named. This points to either a severe incompetence or, more alarmingly, a collusion between the management and the thieves.

The financial repercussions of this failure are profound. Nigeria is hemorrhaging valuable foreign exchange earnings, the value of the Naira continues to decline, and local refineries struggle with insufficient crude supply. Each day that the NNPCL fails to effectively address oil theft is a day that Nigeria’s economic stability and development are further compromised.

It is time for a significant overhaul in the leadership of NNPCL. The current management, having demonstrated an inability to combat oil theft effectively, must be relieved of their positions. Fresh leadership, untainted by past failures and with a genuine commitment to transparency and accountability, is urgently needed. This new leadership must prioritize the identification and prosecution of the major players in the oil theft network, irrespective of their status or connections within the industry.

Only through decisive action and true accountability can Nigeria hope to stem the tide of crude oil theft. Empty threats and hollow declarations will no longer suffice. The NNPCL must move beyond words and take real, concrete steps to safeguard Nigeria’s oil assets and restore integrity to the industry.

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