The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has called on the federal government to take immediate action to block revenue leakages and implement measures to improve the economy without further delay.
The call was made on Tuesday on the heels of the interception of a vessel carrying stolen crude oil, with a capacity of 800,000 litres which was estimated at N45 billion.
The CSJ in a statement said only by curbing such criminal activities and ensuring accountability can Nigeria overcome its fiscal challenges and create a better future for its citizens.
The NGO commended the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) for the significant breakthrough in its ongoing efforts to combat oil theft and protect public revenue with the Monday’s announcement of the successful interception of a vessel carrying stolen crude oil, with a capacity of 800,000 litres.
The the Chief Corporate Communication Officer of NNPCL, Mr. Garba Deen Muhammad had disclosed that the interception was made possible due to credible intelligence received by the company, noting that a private security contractor engaged by NNPCL Limited, Messrs. Tantita Security Services, took swift action and apprehended the suspicious vessel, named MT Tura II (IMO number 6620462), on July 7, 2023. The vessel, owned by HOLAB Maritime Services Limited, a Nigerian registered company with the Registration Number RC813311, was en route to Cameroon with the illicit cargo on board.
He also revealed that the captain and crew members were detained along with the vessel, with preliminary investigations revealing that the crude oil cargo was illegally sourced from an offshore well jacket in Ondo, Nigeria.
The CSJ based on the current price of $75 per barrel, the seized 800,000 litres of crude oil amounts to approximately $60 million. When converted at an exchange rate of N750 to $1, the value of the stolen crude oil equates to N45 billion.
The Centre said it is deeply concerned about this incident, particularly in light of the President Bola Tinubu administration’s commitment to combating corruption and strengthening public finances, while lamenting that for the past two years, Nigeria has been unable to meet its OPEC production quota, largely due to rampant oil theft and pipeline vandalism in it’s Niger Delta.
The CSJ, in the statement said: “Nigeria’s debt burden is already significant, with the World Bank’s Nigeria Development Update of June 2023 reporting that public and publicly guaranteed debt reached 40 percent of GDP in 2022. Additionally, the debt servicing to revenue ratio surpassed 100 percent of general government revenues for the first time, reaching 101.5 percent. The World Bank projects that Nigeria’s debt servicing to revenue ratio will peak at 121 percent in 2023.
“In light of this precarious situation, it is imperative to prevent the loss of public revenue to criminal activities while citizens bear the brunt of increased taxes and economic challenges. CSJ strongly recommends that the perpetrators of these crimes be publicly named and brought to trial within a reasonable time to serve as a deterrent to others.
“Furthermore, CSJ advises the government against the traditional approach of burning intercepted vessels. Instead, the stolen crude oil should be salvaged to recover the value lost, the vessel sold and the proceeds transferred to the public treasury. These large-scale thefts of crude oil must not be allowed to persist if the government is to achieve its revenue targets and stabilise the economy.”
It lamented that the current economic conditions have already pushed an estimated 4 million Nigerians into poverty between December 2022 and April 2023 and 7 million more may be pushed into poverty before the year ends (if the government fails to act to alleviate poverty), insisting that according to the World Bank. Nigeria’s inflation rate is currently one of the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, severely affecting household purchasing power.