Nigeria loses between $7 billion and $12 billion to crude oil theft annually, a study by the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) has found, prompting reactions from stakeholders on the implications for the country's critical sectors like health and education.
Speaking at a seminar on advocacy against crude oil theft, the Managing Director of New Nigeria Foundation, organizers of the workshop, Prof. Femi Ajibola, said though there are no exact figures of what the country loses to oil theft, it was clear that the loss is humongous.
"What we have lost in one year is much more than 10 times what we have spent on health. If we can reduce what we are losing by just 10 per cent, we can increase our health budget to two times of what we are spending today," he said.
The seminar had in attendance critical government agencies in the oil sector, representatives of international oil companies, security agencies as well as the host communities.
Ajibola said if the country could reduce oil theft, things can change for the better.
In a presentation of the NNRC study on oil theft, a consultant to the NNRC, Mr. Niyi Awodeyi, said an estimated 400,000 barrels was stolen daily particularly during the peak years of between 2011 and 2014.
He said more recent figures showed that Nigeria lost N3.8 trillion in 2016 to oil theft, an amount that was over 50 per cent of the country's annual budget for the same year.
This, according to him, is because the revenues lost to crude oil theft could conveniently fund infrastructural and other development projects that could enhance the wellbeing of all citizens.
He said poor governance, poverty, unemployment and the oil companies were the major drivers of oil theft.