President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday described as embarrassing a situation where Nigeria has come to be identified as the only country in which crude oil is stolen, saying government must be decisive in its bid to stop the trend.
This is just as Finance Minister ans coordinating minister for the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has hinted that the country loses over N2trillion annually in capital flight to foreign countries which own vessels used to lift about 150 million tons of cargos including oil products from Nigerian.
Speaking at the presidential maritime security workshop held at the Banquet hall of the presidential villa, Abuja, Jonathan said, "It is embarrassing that it is only in Nigeria that crude oil is stolen. We will be decisive in putting an end to this malaise. Our charge to all relevant agencies and departments of government is to work cooperatively with the required urgency this challenge deserves.
"In your deliberations, you must place focus on evolving a strong intelligence base and information gathering system, and measures so that crude oil theft is completely eliminated. The strengthening of regulatory oversight and deepening Inter-Agency partnership should also engage your attention.
"I request participants to this workshop to come up with deliverables that provide details on roles and responsibilities of stakeholders and timelines for harnessing the huge potentials in the maritime sector so that our losses will, in the shortest possible time, be converted to our net gains".
Noting that Nigerians were looking forward to a better managed and result-oriented maritime sector, the president said, "We cannot afford to disappoint our people. The area of institutions for capacity building in the maritime industry needs to be properly examined. This time, I expect Nigeria to have some of the best maritime academy for training our people and also for the people of the sub-region.
"I am pleased to convene this retreat with the theme "Harnessing the Potential of Nigeria's Maritime Sector for Sustainable Economic Development". The Coordinating Minister of the Economy/Honourable Minister of Finance, in collaboration with her colleagues in the cabinet, was requested to organise series of workshops where key issues in the priority sectors of the economy would be addressed.
"The workshops were also to enable us assess progress, review challenges, chart a realistic way forward and where necessary, indicate timelines for the attainment of set goals.
"The maritime sector is a critical component in the economic development of a modern state. It is in this regard that we incorporated it as a major component of our Transformation Agenda. The sector without doubt, facilitates approximately 90 per cent of world trade, creates millions of jobs and generates billions of dollars in economic output. The sector, to say the least, is a major engine in our national growth strategy.
"Our maritime industry helped to enhance our position as a regional leader in several areas. Besides improved prospects in traditional sea-related activities such as fishing, shipping, ship-building and repairs, agriculture and tourism, the sector is a major hub in offshore oil exploration and production activities and will remain so in the foreseeable future.
"Given its importance in the national economy, we have an uncompromising obligation to safeguard our territorial waters against all threats: poaching, piracy, pipeline vandalism, coastal insecurity, crude oil theft, illegal bunkering, non-payment of statutory levies and charges, illegal entry of ships into our territorial waters, illegal importation of arms and hard drugs, among other sundry crimes.