A Nigerian political scientist and activist, Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, has attributed the growing incidence of oil theft in Nigeria to the high level of corruption in the country and the deliberate attempt to make the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission redundant and ineffective.
Dr. Ibrahim spoke on Monday at the premiere weekly tweet chat session of the HEDA Resource Centre (#MondayTango), which engaged Dr. Ibrahim in an interactive session on ‘Oil Theft and the Nigerian Economy’.
He pointed out that the Nigerian government does not have any active systems that could check the level of corruption in the oil sector, and the economy, in general.
In that regard, he compared the contemporary Nigerian system with that of the First Republic, when, according to him, ‘stealing 5% of a project budget would take you to jail because systems were in place. He expressed the view that the current fall in oil prices was a welcome development, as its sustainability would ensure accountability and a return to taxation by the political class.
He noted that several years after oil was discovered in Nigeria’s Niger- Delta, Nigeria has largely operated as a mono-economy, with about 80% of its revenues received from oil-production activities, with the oil sector, like others, recording numerous cases of grand corruption.
Dr. Ibrahim stressed that one of the effects of thriving corruption in the sector is evident in the continuous rise in cases of oil theft in the Niger Delta. The activities of oil thieves have led to the loss of over 100,000 barrels per day, therefore, affecting the country’s revenue source, and automatically affecting the economy, as a whole.
In response to a question on the cause of irregular figures of barrels-per-day lost to oil theft, Dr. Ibrahim stated that rentiers deliberately give different figures as means of covering the active level of corruption in the sector. He cited Angola as one of the countries where accurate figures are always given, because Angola placed metres on all pipelines so they know the exact production record of the product.
Dr. Ibrahim stressed that the Nigerian government has refused to follow the footsteps of the Angolan government in this regard, even though the metres, if placed, would help monitor the production and export of oil from the country.
On the question of who the beneficiaries from oil exploration activities are, Dr Ibrahim identified the successive ruling class, Presidents inclusive. He buttressed this point by recalling that an American court judgement showed how an oil company bribed four successive Nigerian leaders.
He concluded that the Nigerian government was not transparent in its fight against oil theft, declaring that, in fact, the government exists on the basis of deepening oil theft.