Abuja - Presidential Goodluck Jonathan on Monday described the situation where it is only Nigeria that crude oil is stolen as extremely embarrassing and unacceptable.
Jonathan expressed the regret at the presidential maritime security retreat held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The retreat was convened by the president to assess progress, review challenges and chart a realistic way forward for the attainment of set goals in the maritime sector.
Jonathan said government would strengthen the relevant regulatory agencies and deepen inter-agencies partnership in addressing the challenge of oil theft, piracy, and coastal insecurity.
``It is extremely embarrassing that it’s only in Nigeria that crude oil is stolen.
``It’s a very bad news and I believe that Nigerians and foreigners, who are indulged in that act, need to put their heads under the pillow; because all over the world it’s only in Nigeria that crude oil is stolen.
``We are not the only oil producing country. Why is it that it’s only in Nigeria that people steal crude oil? That must stop.
``Our charge to all relevant agencies and departments of government is to work cooperatively with the required urgency this challenge deserves.
``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.’’
The president noted that the maritime sector was critical to the attainment of national economic development and for effecting national transformation agenda.
He said the sector facilitated approximately 90 per cent of world trade; created millions of jobs and generated billions of dollars in economic output.
Jonathan said the maritime industry had helped to enhance Nigeria’s position as a regional leader in several areas because it is a major engine of national growth.
``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 to national economy, the president said all hands must be on deck to safeguard the nation’s territorial waters against all threats.
He said such threats as 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, must be checked.
The president said that the cost of piracy to national economy was unacceptably high and threatened investments, while pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft had resulted in serious loss of revenue to government.
He said government was determined to reverse the situation, protect the nation’s natural resources and ensure their sustainable use for the benefit of present and future generations.
To this end, he tasked participants at the workshop to provide opportunity to capitalise on the gains so far made and find durable solutions to challenges in the sector.
``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.’’
``Our country men and women are looking forward to a better managed and result-oriented maritime sector. We cannot afford to disappoint our people.’’
The president also decried a situation where the West African coast generally known as the richest fishery resources in Africa, could not be harnessed to advantage by the sub-region.
He attributed the failure to inadequate law enforcement and poor industry capacity.