Disturbed by the increasing rate of pipeline vandalism and oil theft in the Niger Delta, the National Economic Council (NEC) has approved 21 years imprisonment without option of fine for pipeline vandals as an interim measure.
Consequently, the Council also constituted a Legal Task Force headed by the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke to commence immediate prosecution of about 500 people that have been arrested for pipeline vandalism.
Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State, who chairs the committee on oil theft, briefed State House correspondents on Thursday. The National Economic Council (NEC), which comprises of the 36 state governors and Ministers of National Planning, Finance, FCT and Governor of Central Bank, is chaired by Vice President Namadi Sambo.
The Delta Governor said his committee felt urgent steps needed to be taken to address the issue of pipeline vandalism as the country is losing about 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day, translating to about N7 billion daily loss to the economy.
Also, as part of the immediate measures being put in place, he said Governors Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers and Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa have been mandated to meet the management of Shell and other concerned oil majors so that the two pipelines that have been shut down could be reopen so shore up daily production.
“The Committee has moved to address the issue of the 400, 000 barrels per day production shortfall. The Governors of Bayelsa and Delta have been mandated to meet with the concerned oil majors and the JTF to work out modalities for the effective repair of the Nembe and Trans Niger pipelines which are currently shut.
“The Committee also mandated Akwa Ibom Governor, Obong Godswill Akpabio, CON, Secretary to National Planning Commission, the NEITI chief executive and a representative of the Inspector-General of Police to meet with the Attorney-General of the federation towards strengthening the extant deterrence policy by ensuring more arrests and convictions of the oil thieves.
“In this regard, a meeting of the Governor Akpabio-led Committee with the AGF this morning, agreed on the following resolutions:
“A legal task force, headed by the AGF to be set up immediately to commence prosecution of proven cases, using relevant laws; particularly the miscellaneous offences Act which carries a sentence of 21 years without option of fine
“The legal task force is to be made up of representatives from the NNPC, the Armed Forces, Civil Defence, Police, SSS and other related agencies
“The task force is to be in force for one year with effect from July, 2013. The members of the task force are to be announced by the AGF on Monday 22 July, 2013. Prosecution of established cases will continue and all convictions given wide publicity,” Governor Uduaghan said.
The Council also commended the efforts of the Committee and further urged it to ensure that the bid to repair the shut pipelines is achieved within the targeted period of six to eight weeks.