By Olusegun Emmanuel, Abuja.
Elder statesman and former Federal Commissioner for Information, Mr. Edwin Clark, has accused retired and serving military officers of being responsible for illegal oil bunkering activities in Niger Delta region.
Clark, who spoke on Tuesday at the plenary session of the National Conference, during the debate of the report of the committee on Public Finance and Revenue, added that one hardly knew how much oil is taking away from our shores.
Clark while commenting on the report also called for removal of fuel subsidy.
On Oil theft, Clark said he once reported the case to the then President Olusegun Obasanjo when he discovered what was going on, recalling that Obasanjo directed his Minister of Defense, Theophilius Danjuma to investigate.
“The military officers who are in Niger Delta have hand in stealing this oil. I made this point to President Obasanjo and he asked Danjuma who was there as Minister of Defense to look through and he went and found that it was true,” he said.
Adding: So, some of these military officers, either retired or serving officers, what I will suggest is that the troops in the Niger Delta should be changed from time to time. In doing so, you will find that the stealing of oil will be reduced.”
The Ijaw leader took delegates back memory lane and narrated how in 1972 as Commissioner for Finance in the defunct Mid-West State travelled with former President Shehu Shagari, who was then Federal Commissioner for Finance to Forcados terminal where Nigeria crude oil was been exported, and discovered that government officials were just interested in what comes to them than protecting the interest of Nigeria.
He informed the conference that,”in 1972 as a commissioner for finance in the old Mid West, I travelled with President Shehu Shagari who was the the Federal Commissioner of Finance to Forcados island where our crude was being exported. We discovered, 1972 that the government officials who were there, were more interested in what they can get than protecting the interest of Nigeria, that is you hardly knew how much oil was taking away from our shores. It was published in the newspaper, till today, I do believe that if you go to Forcados terminal the same story will be told.
The Delta State born elder statesman noted that the youth of the area only embark on bucket bunkering which is in a small scale as they don’t possess the technological know how required for such operation, but went on to say that the real thieves are those who came from abroad.
“Number two, we are talking about oil theft, I have always said that our young men at home do bucket bunkering. They have no facility, they also lack the technology, but those who steal this oil are people who come from abroad. Have we forgotten the case where three admirals were fully involved? They were court marshaled,” Clark recalled.
He also advocated the inclusion of youths of the particular community in oil pipelines protection, saying that he once approached President Obasanjo with such proposal.
“Some of our pipeline are 50 years old and when they leak, they leak oil. I went to head of state at a time or Mr. President, and ask him why not give this contract to the youth or the communities. Every community that fail to do its own should be sanctioned.
“It was agreed, but nothing was done until recently. I don’t know how it was given to some youth. But what is important is that if I come from a village where there is pipeline, let the youth in that place secure it and you have given them employment. It will prevent the stealing of oil,” Clark argued.