Nigerian Authorities – Oil Theft Becoming More Difficult to Address

Abuja, Nigeria — The managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. (NNPC) sparked controversy this week when he said thieves from all levels of society were stealing 200,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Mele Kyari even accused churches and mosques of keeping stolen fuel, an allegation religious groups rejected. Kyari addressed a weekly ministerial briefing in the presidential village on Tuesday and said up to 95% of Nigeria’s oil produced at the Bonny Terminal was being stolen.

The NNPC official cited one oil pipeline in the area and said 295 illegal connections had been attached along its 200-kilometer course.

Kyari said the oil theft was mostly being done by organized groups who sometimes work with residents of local communities. He also said religious leaders, churches and mosques were involved in crude oil theft.

Kyari said authorities were attempting to address the problem, but added that the theft was difficult to stop.

“We have some visibility around nearly everything we have, particularly on the security platforms,” Kyari said. “Currently there are 122 arrests, and they will be prosecuted. About 11 vessels, 30 speed boats have been arrested, 179 wooden boats and then 37 trucks.”

Kyari’s comments on mosques and churches taking part in the theft sparked a backlash among religious groups.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Society of Nigeria, Micheal Umoh, said the oil company head must be specific in his opinion.

“Even this thing they’re talking about, that religious leaders being part of it, if there’s any atom of truth in it, it will not be possible if government was responsible and doing its work,” Umoh said. “They’re just trying to bring in all these distractions, but I will not want to begin to disagree with him until he really explains what he means, because many people go by the name ‘religious leaders’ but with very terrible characters.”