Lagos — Illegal oil activities have cost Nigeria a whopping $16 billion, the Auditor General's office has revealed.
The latest development created a mammoth task for President Muhammadu Buhari in his attempt to fight out the rot in the oil sector, the country's economic backbone.
Nigeria, Africa's largest economy has over the years experienced massive illegal oil activities that deprived the nation of billions in revenue while the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) fought losing battles to apprehend criminals.
"Oil theft by politicians, top government officials and general citizens is annoying. The illegal activities in the oil sector are serious cause for concern. The government, should work towards bringing the culprits to book, otherwise the problem has become cancer.
"Our country (Nigeria) is the richest in Africa yet we have more than 100 million of people living in abject poverty," said oil businessman Obafemi Aiyegbeni in an interview with CAJ News Africa.
Nigeria has a population estimated around 170 million with more than 100 million believed to be living in abject poverty.
"What makes this problem a crisis is that top politicians and government officials are also involved. Illegal oil activities will never stop unless government flexes its muscles.
"I can't see president Buhari winning this war yet. He needs serious commitment right from individuals, corporate and state," Aiyegbeni added.
Port Harcourt oil trader, Emeka Uche, accused the federal government of not doing much to investigate and arrest suspected top government officials involved in these illegal oil activities.
"This is annoying because for areas are known to be illegally demarcated for politicians to harvest oil at the expense of the nation. Such corrupt tendencies are clearly observed by individuals hence taking the law into their own hands.
"Every person wants to live, so, in one way or another, individuals should find ways to tap into the oil sector either by hook or by crook," said Uche.
However, President Buhari, in his attempt to address the illegal activities at the oil sector reshuffled some executives at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with a view to tackle the rampant corruption and inefficiency.
Among other challenges that emanate from illegal oil activities include conflicts of interest and opportunities for theft by those that entrusted to spearhead the clean out campaign.
"Everybody wants to shares in the oil sector, so the problems are huge... ..bigger than what we see with visible eyes," said Uche.
Nigeria has more than 70 companies exploring the oil resource.