The revelation that about 22 million barrels of crude oil were stolen in the first six months of this year should worry every well-meaning Nigerian and calls to question the effectiveness of measures put in place to checkmate the menace.
It is either that the measures are not working or there are collaborators within the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the security forces who collude with the crude oil thieves to perpetrate their illegal activities.
Recall that Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee of the National Economic Council on Crude Oil Theft, Prevention and Control, who made the disclosure recently while painting a dire picture of the oil theft menace in the country, lamented that if nothing was done to curtail the ugly trend, the figure could double by the end of the year.
Additionally, Governor Obaseki said the twin menace of oil theft and pipeline vandalism was beginning to pose a threat to the national economy.
The Governor went on to call on stakeholders to join forces and work towards eradicating the menace of crude oil theft that is currently on increase in the country.
We are not only in agreement with Governor Obaseki on this but insist that it is time for the Federal Government to step up the battle against these economic saboteurs.
The Federal Government should show more resoluteness in putting the criminals behind rising oil theft out of business permanently so that the country can benefit maximally from this natural endowment.
This should begin with critical re-examination of the measures so far deployed to tackle the menace and adoption of new strategies where necessary, including of course the use of technology. Every loophole that enables these crude oil thieves to carry on their illegal activities unfettered should be plugged.
There is also the urgent need for the Federal Government to rejig the security forces battling this menace in the Niger Delta region in particular with a view to uncovering the collaborators within the NNPC, security forces and the larger society and bring them book not minding their status.
Fact is that these oil thieves have infiltrated the security forces as well as the NNPC operatives who most times look the other way when these criminals are at work. Such collaborators should be fished out and shamed.
We call on all Nigerians not only to rise in unison to condemn these economic saboteurs and reject their ill-gotten money but to support the Federal Government, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the security forces to put those behind the rising crude oil theft in the country out of business permanently.