The Executive Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Lamorde, says civil society groups in the country must step up their collaboration with the relevant security agencies to check the menace of illegal oil refining in the Niger Delta region.
Mr. Lamorde, who was exchanging views with the Executive Director, Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), David Ugolor, said the negative impact of unrestrained illegal refining of petroleum products in the region is creating a damage that is worse than oil spillage.
“Illegal refining of petroleum products in the Niger Delta region is not only hurting the economy, but also destroying the environment,” the EFCC boss said. “There is no place in the world that such things happen unchecked, except in Nigeria. What the perpetrators do is to take out the petrol and dispense with the other fuels contained in the crude oil.”
Blaming the unfortunate situation on poverty among youths in the region, Mr. Lamorde said it would have been difficult to recruit them into illegal bunkering and refining if there were jobs available to engage their attention.
The EFCC Chairman used the occasion to provide an update on ongoing investigations concerning the recent petition brought before it by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke on alleged corruption in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
According to him, despite the difficulties and challenges experienced by the commission in obtaining the relevant information on the activities of the oil and gas industry, significant progress has been made in its investigations so far, particularly as they relate to the oil subsidy management.
“We have done a lot of work on the subsidy management investigations”, he said. “We has already collected relevant document from both independent sources and government agencies in the oil and gas industry, including oil companies, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
“We are looking at a lot of documents relating to the various transactions before moving to the next phase of the assignment. With the interesting revelations from the House of Representatives and Senate probe committees on subsidy, it is important that we have the report of the two chambers to proceed.”
He said the agency would require as much information as it can gather from groups, government and private organizations, including credible civil society, adding that the Commission would be ready to collaborate with any group or agency with genuine information that would help its investigations.
The anti-graft agency, he said, has already moved to appeal against some dubious court injunctions that restrained the Commission from investigating allegations of corruption leveled against some former top government officials, expressing confidence that such orders would soon be vacated to enable it do its work.
Earlier, Mr. Ugolor had told the EFCC Chairman that he was in his office to demonstrate the solidarity of ANEEJ with the Commission in its onerous assignment of ridding corruption in the management of the fuel subsidy in the oil and gas industry.
He said with over 15 years working with the oil and gas industry, its organization understands the level of decay and corruption in the industry and would be in a better position to independently support the Commission as the public eye, by providing some useful information that would help the commission realize its mandate.