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Legal expert calls for tough action on oil thieves

19 June 2014, 09:07

Abuja - A prominent legal expert has urged the federal government to impose stiffer sanctions against crude oil thieves to curb the problem.

Lateef Fagbemi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), advocated for an amendment of the laws regulating such crimes to accommodate more deterrent punishment.

He argued that such laws in their present state were  "too soft" on culrpits.

"Crude oil theft involves huge sums of money and it is only reasonable that the punishment applicable must equally be severe," he said at the ninth Chief Babatunde Olusola Benson annual public  lecture organized as part of the Annual Law Week 2014 of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikorodu Branch.

"A situation where a crude oil thief steals crude oil worth millions of dollars, only to be fined a paltry sum of N2 000 or sent to two years in jail is too ridiculous and makes a mockery of our judicial system,"Fagbemi said.

The senior lawyer said that activities of the crude oil thieves threatened the "very existence of the country."

"When one considers that the economy of our country depends entirely on these incomes, therefore anything that tends to disrupt that delicate balance must be fought with all the arms in our arsenal until same is roundly defeated," he said.

"The time has come for crude oil thieves to be treated as economic saboteurs rather than ordinary criminals," Fagbemi said.

He put forward proposals to stiffen sentences.

“A situation where they are stripped of their right to engage in political activities or contest for electoral posts on our land will not be out of place, considering the fact that they are enemies of the land whose criminal activities are primarily aimed at preventing all of us from enjoying the good things of life.”

He further called on the government to focus more attentively on the activities of the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta to ensure that they carry out their primary activities.

“The issue of securing our crude oil must not be left to the whims and caprices of the security chiefs alone. Where there are lapses, the security chiefs and those fingered in same must be made to pay for it,” he stated.

- CAJ News

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