Buhari, represented by the Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva said this while addressing Joint Task Force Operation Delta Safe, in Effurum, Delta State and Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
As Nigeria groans under heavy debt amid dwindling revenue occasioned largely by massive reduction in oil production capacity, vandals and thieves are smiling to the bank by tapping into oil pipelines.
Buhari had charged the security agencies to eradicate crude oil theft and pipeline vandalisation, adding that the development must not be tolerated as activities of the criminals have destabilised crude oil productions in the last couple of years.
“Mr President has mandated us to eradicate crude oil theft. He has directed that no litre of crude oil should be stolen in the country again especially in the South South. He wants crude oil thieves completely eliminated by May 29, 2023 as one of the legacies of his government. This is the message from Mr President. We are not where we want to be, but we are happy at what we are seeing,” he said.
Prior to the renewed efforts of the Federal Government in tackling the menace of crude oil thieves, the nation’s daily crude oil production was about 900,000 barrels per day but the scaled up security efforts of the Federal Government has helped to shore up production to about 1.5 million barrels per day.
“I am happy to hear that morale is high here. We were here a few months ago to hand over the mandate of Mr President to you and that is to ensure that there is zero tolerance for crude oil thieves in the region. We want to thank you for what you have done so far but there is still more to be done for us to achieve 100 per cent.
“Nigerians have noticed what you are doing, the managers in the oil industry have noticed what you are doing and indeed the international community have noticed what you are doing. We are happy at the improvement we are seeing in the oil and gas sector. We have seen significant improvement and that’s why we are here on the mandate of the president to thank you for what you are doing. He has said there should be no reason why we (Nigeria) should be losing an essential commodity that is the life wire of the country.
“We are here to ask you to redouble your efforts so that we will be able to tell Nigerians and the President that we have zero tolerance for crude oil thieves,” the minister stated.
He said when the team visited the region about three months ago on the mandate of President Muhammadu Buhari, the situation was very disturbing noting that “today, we have seen a significant change in the whole thing and we are happy about it. We want to return in another few months to show Nigerians that we have successfully tackled the problem of oil thief and pipeline vandalization in the country”.
In a brief remark, the Group Chief Executive Officer, NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari disclosed that the Federation Government has set up a special court to expedite the trials of criminal elements involved in oil thief and pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta region.
Kyari, who also expressed gratitude to the troops for the excellent work they were doing to restore confidence in the pipelines, said he was sure that full confidence will be restored in crude oil production in the shortest possible time.