The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), international oil companies (IOCs), security agencies, community leaders and other stakeholders yesterday warned that oil theft was retarding the national economy and fuelling environmental pollution in the resource-rich Niger Delta region.
They said the multinationals and indigenous operators had adversely been affected one way or the other by the activities of the oil thieves with Nigeria losing $2.8 billion to the illicit business in 2017 alone.
During a stakeholders' engagement seminar on the menace, organised by the New Nigeria Foundation (NNF) in Warri, DPR's representative, Mr. Efe Ogbeni, pointed out that a bulk of the challenges faced by oil firms, including oil spills, environmental degradation, shutdowns and loss of revenues and man-hours, were caused by third party interference on installations.
It was disclosed that the April 18, 2019 oil well fire at the Ojumole Well No. 1 of Chevron Nigeria Limited, an idle and plugged well with no connected flowline, was perpetrated by invaders.
They also traced the shutting down of the Nembe Creek trunk line, one of the two key pipelines of Nigeria's Bonny Light crude grade capable of transporting 150,000bpd to the export terminal, to same unwholesomeness.
The gathering suggested that the establishment of modular refineries in the area could sustainably check oil theft and related ills.
The Federal Government was therefore urged to hasten moves in that respect.
They held that "until illegal oil bunkering and theft are completely stopped, the Nigerian economy will continue to suffer the loss of revenue from thousands of barrel of oil every day, and Nigerians yet unborn would suffer from the consequences of their destroyed environment."
The event was to create awareness on the economic sabotage and share studies of the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) with a view to building support for activities that would ameliorate the situation as well as agreeing on strategy and facilitating a platform for relevant stakeholders to undertake the advocacy.
However, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) has cautioned President Muhammadu Buhari against "forceful" resumption of oil production in their area.
Its president, Fegalo Nsuke, made the appeal in a statement yesterday during a meeting with youth coordinators, led by the President of Theophilus Mbaga, in Bori.
The MOSOP leader argued that their struggle for justice had consumed over 4,000 lives and currently endangers one million others due to what he described as unjust practices and unfair laws by an oil major against his people.
"It will therefore be grossly inhuman to further traumatise the people through military repression even in situations where they have expressed their commitment to peaceful engagement to resolve all contentious issues," he added.