IN it bid to check oil thefts and illegal bunkering, the Federal Government of Nigeria will deploy appropriate surveillance technology combat vehicles and boats to difficult terrains.
Bayelsa State Deputy Governor John Jonah, briefed reporters at the end of the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, adding that apart from ensuring full benefits of uninterrupted power supply, the Federal Government has also been urged to set up special courts for speedy prosecution of oil bunkerers and oil theft suspects.
He was accompanied to the briefing by Enugu State Deputy Governor Cecilia Ezeilo, Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello and Minister of Budget and National Planning Udoma Udo Udoma.
Giving an update on the NEC Ad-Hoc Committee on Crude Oil Theft Prevention and Control, Jonah told the Council that the Committee set-up sometimes 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), to arrive at the recommendations.
He said: “Among the key recommendations of the Committee are:
Procurement and deployment of appropriate technology in surveillance and combat vehicles/boats in difficult terrain would drastically reduce incidents of oil thefts and illegal bunkering and this would ensure full benefits of uninterrupted supply.
Federal Government should set up special courts for speedy prosecution of oil bunkerers and oil theft suspects.
Engagement of traditional rulers to sensitize their communities on the criminal and environmental dangers of oil theft.”
On the way forward, he said: “Increase the refining capacity of the domestic refineries through relocation/co-locating smaller cost-efficient refineries within time frame of 12 – 24 months.
“Focus on restoring upstream production by positively engaging host communities to put the militancy to an end. Focus on improving Government funding in the upstream sector where funding has been less than 30 per cent.
“Relieve Government of monthly cash-call funding and create a sustainable self-funding arrangement.
“Continue to engage the general public and all stakeholders by providing relevant information and education.” He added
The key findings of the Committee as to the causes of crude oil theft, he said, included: Inadequate operational patrol vessels to conduct patrol of entire pipeline network; massive unemployment among youths in the region attributed to increasing incident of theft and vandalism; non availability of petroleum products in the Niger Delta Area also responsible for reoccurrent illegal bunkering.
He said Vice President Osinbajo told the Council that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the reconstitution of the board of Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC).
On the NEC Ad-Hoc Committee on Management of the Excess Crude Account (ECA) and Payment into the Federation Account, he said the Edo State Governor reported to the Council that the sub-committee endorsed the forensic auditors firms as earlier proposed by Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, to audit the ECA.
He said the Minister of Finance also reported to the Council that the balance in the ECA stood at $2.259 billion as at 30th April.
Interest that accrued on the ECA, he said, amounted to $429,903.55 for the month of April 2016.
The Enugu Deputy Governor said the Council approved a Fiscal Sustainability Plan which is aimed at helping the states of the federation navigate the current economic conditions including a massive drop in Federation Account allocation funds.
She said: “In response to previous requests, the Honourable Minister of Finance made a presentation to the Council on Fiscal Sustainability Plan and Fiscal Framework for Sub-National Governments in Nigeria. This included:
Five (5) key strategic objectives and recommended action points with a view to achieving objectives around improved fiscal behaviour that will align both short-term and long-term sustainability objectives of the Federal and State Governments.
“The 5 key elements are: Accountability and Transparency; Increase in Public Revenue; Rationalisation of Public Expenditure; Public Financial Management Reforms; and Sustainable Debt Management.”
The Kogi State Governor said Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele reported to the Council that 30 States have so far benefited from the salary bailout as at May 18 while 35 States applied for the Excess Crude Account-backed loans.
On the update on fuel supply and marketing, he said the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, told the Council, 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.
Against belief that the government erred by giving N145 cap price of fuel per litre while asking oil marketers to source for foreign exchange, Udo-Udoma said the cap price was to protect Nigerians.
“The ceiling is a temporary measure to protect Nigerians before the market stabilizes. It is expected to stabilize below N145 per litre.” He stated.