Former Governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Diepreye Alamieyesieha, yesterday shocked members of the National Conference Committee on Public Finance and Revenue when he told a story of how some ex-naval officers and expatriates engaged in oil bunkering and kidnapping episodes.
Alamieyeseiha also said ex- President Olusegun Obasanjo had once showed him a list of oil thieves in the country but failed to prosecute them during his administration.
The ex-governor who volunteered to state his experience of oil bunkering when he was governor of Bayelsa State, said some retired naval officers were involved in oil theft even as he accused some foreign oil workers of conniving with local gangs to arrange kidnapping as a means of extorting money from government and oil companies.
Alamieyeseigha made the startling revelations just as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which appeared before the committee, tried to explain the issues leading to revenue short falls and the controversy trailing the corporation’s management of the 445,000 barrels of crude oil meant to service local refineries.
He said when he was governor, he had facilitated the arrest of some oil thieves in the state but because of high level conspiracy in high quarters and with the connivance of NNPC officials, the arrested oil thieves were left off the hook.
“I had one experience. Tankers were loaded in the state. I got the information and laid ambush for them and arrested them. About 14 big tankers and they were handed over to the police. They were charged to court and the judge ordered that the product should be tested to know if they were crude oil. NNPC was invited, they came, took the sample and after a week, the result came out as agro chemical and before I know, all of them were released.
“I went to Obasanjo. I even accused him that he is the chief bunkerer, that he should not call me again. I also accused him that those who are involved are also sitting in this arena and if he pushed me beyond that I am going to mention names. It became so hot that I was persuaded to follow him to his office. He held my hand and we entered.
So there is actually enough intelligence that is open to the presidency. He himself, Obasanjo, started mentioning names. I said ‘oh, you are the chief bunkerer, I confirm, you know them, don’t call me again’.”
Alamieyeseigha also accused the expatriates in the oil sectors of being deeply involved in the illegal activities in the industry.
According to him, the expatriates collaborated with militants to kidnap themselves in the heydays of militancy in the Niger Delta region.
“In fact expatriates are more involved in the crime than Nigerians. In fact some of them even offer themselves to be arrested so that when there is compensation they have a share of it. “They are also involved in kidnapping. They allow themselves to be kidnapped. Oil companies are invited, their home countries will shout that their men are kidnapped; management of oil companies will now make efforts and pay ransom. When the ransom is paid, they are released and that money is shared among them. So, it is a high level conspiracy that is going on.”
The former governor further said some retired naval officers were fond of taking advantage of their experience while in service to engage in oil theft and stressed that the local boys who were regularly arrested for oil theft were mere “escorts” as they do not have the international connections to sell stolen crude oil.
“The so-called militants we celebrate who tap oil are only employed as escorts. If there is no buyer, we will not find a seller. The post retirement job of a senior naval officer is bunkering. None of those boys you see in the Niger Delta have the necessary connections to bring ships to our economic zone to lift oil. Those who are making the connections are also part of us.”
Apart from the expatriates, Alamieyeseigha who alleged that 50 per cent of Nigerian oil was stolen daily, also accused foreign embassies of being aware of the illegal purchase of crude oil from Nigeria.
He said the mafia behind the oil bunkering business was so strong that even government was afraid of stepping on their toes, adding no government will not survive it.
“In fact almost 50 per cent of what we produce in this country is being siphoned outside to augment the international market. And where is it oil going? It is going to those countries and they know the type of oil that is coming out from Nigeria. It is different from others. The sulphur content here is very low and they know this but everybody is gaining from it.
“Let the federal government send warning letter to all the embassies that are in this country and give them three months.
After three months, if we see any ship that is not authorised in our economic zone, especially in the Niger Delta, it will be destroyed. Involve the navy, buy a few assault helicopters, buy missiles and after the three months any ship you see inside there by the time you destroy one, two ships, no country will allow their ship to enter and so there will be no buyer of illegal crude oil,” he added. Earlier, the NNPC representatives, Okon told the committee that the operations of the refineries had suffered from frequent interruptions caused by the actions of vandals with the attendant losses in company revenue.
On the accusation by states that revenue remissions from the oil sector had been on the decline in recent times, Okon said on the contrary, revenues that comes from the oil sector in the last 3-4 years had always exceeded its targets, adding that any revenue shortfall may have come from other sectors.
He also defended the call for the removal of petroleum subsidy , adding that subsidies had denied the country from benefiting from energy competitiveness. He said although subsidy may be popular, it gives the country a false sense affluence.
Okon said there was no mechanism in the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) for the corporation to recover losses from pipeline vandalism and other operational hazards and that the cost of servicing the losses is huge.
He also urged the National Conference to support the speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill ( PIB), saying Nigeria had lost $16 billion in four years for delaying its passage.