Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has provided a brief on how the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari steered Nigeria out of recession and lingering, massive crude oil theft.

Speaking yesterday in Abuja as a special guest at a Stakeholders Conference on Oil Theft and Losses in Nigeria, Osinbajo stressed that oil theft and sabotage of oil and gas assets are a clear and present danger to Nigeria’s our economy and national security.

Hit by the menace of massive oil theft, which grossly affected Nigeria’s crude national output, Osinbajo said the federal government was forced to prioritize the development of the Niger Delta, as well as the protection of oil assets.

According to him, the Council set up an Ad-hoc Committee to ascertain the magnitude of oil theft and losses in Nigeria and recommended appropriate remedial measures.

According to him, “Most of the recommendations of the Ad-hoc Committee informed the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021 and are being implemented. Even so, acts of vandalism of oil and gas infrastructure, oil theft as well as low production yields are still being reported in damaging and unacceptable proportions”.

He noted that President Buhari had enacted the Petroleum Industry Act of 2021 aimed at revitalizing the oil and gas industry. “Among other things, the Act stipulates elaborate provisions to accommodate the needs of the Host Communities in the oil and gas producing areas. 
“The aim of these provisions is to assuage their sensibilities, give them a sense of belonging and foster unity of purpose with oil companies for the mutual benefit of all,” he explained.

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Speaking on the theme: ‘Protecting Petroleum Industry Assets for Improved Economy’, the Vice President said the current administration is confronting these acts of economic terrorism on multiple fronts and with a range of tools.

“We have invested significantly in scaling up our maritime security architecture. In June 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari flagged off the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure Project otherwise known as the Deep Blue Project.

The programme is a collaborative multiagency effort involving the armed forces, the police and the Department of State Services (DSS), the Nigerian Maritime Administration & Safety Agency (NIMASA), jointly led by the ministry of transport and the ministry of defence.

“The project provides air, naval and land assets for surveillance, policing, and search and rescue operations in our coastal waters and our exclusive economic zones”.

The vice president said the Buhari administration commissioned Falcon Eye, a maritime surveillance facility that networks sensors installed along Nigeria’s coastline. It is designed to provide actionable intelligence in real-time on maritime security threats and enable th=rede swift and preemptive interdiction of criminals.

“Taken together, these two initiatives are huge investments in making our waters safe for energy commerce and inhospitable for the criminals that violate our vital economic interests”.

Apart from scaling up the nation’s maritime security architecture, Osinbajo also highlighted the efforts of the administration through its New Vision for the Niger Delta initiative.

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He observed that given the importance of oil and gas for federation revenues and export earnings, “it was no surprise that the economy went into recession in 2016 for the first time in twenty years with the economy contracting by -1.6% that year.  It was clear to the government at the time that to speedily exit the recession, we needed to ensure that oil production went back to its over 2 million barrels-a-day levels.”

Osinbajo further recalled that in 2017, on the directive of the President, he undertook “a tour of all oil producing states especially in the Niger Delta to engage with stakeholders and get a measure of the grievances that formed the backdrop to the sabotage of the oil installations.”

After the tour, the Buhari administration’s New Vision for the Niger Delta was developed in 2017, as a forthright partnership between the federal government, state governments, private sector and local communities, through which the people of the region can maximally benefit from the wealth of their land.

“As a result of those engagements and based on the feedback we had received from the communities, we were able to draw up the New Vision for the Niger Delta which helped to calm the situation and stem the attacks on oil facilities. These efforts led to significant success,” he said. 

Osinbajo noted that one of the pivots of the New Vision initiative was the establishment of modular refineries to curb illegal artisanal refining in the region and create employment opportunities for the region’s youths.

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According to him, the an Ad-hoc Committee of the National Economic Council it was recommended that employment opportunities for the youths of the oil-producing communities and making petroleum products available in these communities will go a long way to reduce hardship and criminality in the region.

“One of the ideas we pursued under the New Vision for the Niger Delta was licensing modular refineries to discourage illegal artisanal refining. The refineries were designed to be privately owned but with a small percentage of shares owned by the host communities.
“It was hoped that this could draw in the illegal refiners and thus shut down one of the most potent sources of sabotage of oil assets especially the destruction of pipelines.”

By Ken Okoye

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