The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said on Tuesday that six foreigners and one Nigerian have been sentenced to seven years in prison in Nigeria for oil theft.

The suspects were charged, by the Nigerian Navy since 2017 for siphoning about 2000 metric tonnes of crude oil from a loading facility belonging to Shell Petroleum.

The judgment came three years after the navy arrested 10 suspects with a vessel carrying crude oil off the Niger Delta coast. The jailed persons include a Nigerian, two Pakistanis, three Ghanaians, one Indonesian, one Beninois and two Ukrainians.

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In a statement yesterday, EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwagaren said the court on Monday sentenced seven of the 10 suspects to seven years imprisonment. He explained that the suspects were convicted on four counts of conspiracy, dealing in petroleum products without a licence and tampering with oil pipelines alongside Asztral Shipping Corporation SA, and a vessel MT. TECNE(a.k.a MT STAR).

Uwagaren said the ship did not have clearance from Nigerian authorities to navigate in Nigerian waters, while the foreigners equally did not have valid documents to enter the country.

Nigeria is the world’s eighth biggest exporter of crude oil, but a sizeable proportion of its output is stolen by thieves who either drill into pipelines or hijack barges loaded with oil, theft that is known locally as “bunkering“.

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Bunkering and attacks on oil pipelines in the Niger Delta cut Nigeria’s output, which also affects world oil prices. Oil accounts bring in 90% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange and the bulk of government revenue.

Last week, Nigeria’s minister of finance and national planning, Mrs Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed announced that the country had slipped into recession in the third quarter, blaming the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and low oil prices, amidst double-digit inflation.

By Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja

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