Abuja - The Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC) to arrest and prosecute suspected crude oil thieves in the country.
Tambuwal made the call at the inauguration of the House of Representatives Ad hoc Committee on Crude Oil Theft in the Nigeria on Wednesday in Abuja.
According to him, EFCC must act in collaboration with international law enforcement agencies to achieve its objective.
"The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, for instance, should be made to take a closer look at those behind the transportation and purchase of stolen oil in the country,
"It should act in conjunction with other international law enforcement agencies, for criminal prosecution under the procedure of Mutual Legal Assistance."
Tambuwal said that the House would ensure that law enforcement agencies were well equipped to carry out their investigation of those engaged in the illicit business.
"This House must use its influence to ensure that the law enforcement agencies approach their investigation of the criminals engaged in oil field theft from a more sophisticated angle.
"We need to put in place the right kind of legislation to improve the monitoring of on-shore and off-shore areas in order to discourage vandalism.
"We need to establish a robust regulatory framework to plug all loopholes through which all sorts of official and unofficial corruption thrive in the oil sector.''
He said that oil theft had reached a level that required the assistance of every Nigerian to check the dangerous trend.
"Oil theft in our country has now reached an industrial scale, we need the concerted efforts of all stakeholders who must be invited and heard at a scheduled 5-day public hearing.
"There is also no doubt that we must try, as much as possible, to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), as soon as possible."
He urged members of the committee to scrutinise the report by the Royal Institute for International Affairs, which alleged that Nigeria’s oil was being stolen not just from pipelines, but also from tank farms and export terminals.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the committee, Bashir Adamu (PDP-Jigawa) said illegal bunkering had caused Nigeria an estimated N780 billion annually.
Adamu said unless government summoned the courage to fight the menace, the situation would further worsen the country's economic woes.
The legislator explained that the rising level of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism, particularly in the Niger Delta region, had assumed higher dimensions.
He said that the ugly development had made operations in the oil and gas Industry one of the most expensive in the world.
"Attacks on production facilities have led to several shut-downs and declaration of force majeure by the international oil companies (lOCs), ultimately resulting in loss of revenue to the government,” he said.
Adamu recalled that in April 2013, oil giant - Shell Petroleum Development Company - shut down the 150 000bpd Nembe Creek oil pipeline due to the urgent need to clear illegal connections.
He called for serious efforts to combat the menace, adding that the trend had become more complicated because of its international slant.
"Cooperation between the government and private sector is vital to achieving effective maritime security and prevent crude oil theft within the nation's maritime domain,” he said.
NAN reports that the committee has been saddle with task of determining how deep pipelines are buried and if they are accessible to oil thieves; how stolen crude oil is transported and also to determine the owners of illegal vessels, among others.