Local and international action against oil theft and illegal refining in the Niger-Delta have been identified as one of the ways to fight the menace in the country.
At a one-day interactive session with investigative journalists organized by the Human and Environment Agenda, HEDA, in Lagos, Wednesday, participants agreed that the impact of oil theft and illegal refining have begun to take its toll on the nation’s economy.
A communique issued at the end of deliberations demanded that transparency be instituted in all sub-sectors of the oil industry.
“All agencies of government overseeing the oil sector should set up information desks to provide information to the public upon request in line with the FOI Act,” read the 11 point communique.
“Media practitioners should forge partnership with CSOs (civil society organizations) to conduct advocacy, seek access to information and publish stories on oil theft.
“Journalists should collaborate with local oil producing communities and those hosting oil and petroleum pipelines to expose activities of illegal operators and reveal information on actual situations,” the communique added.
The communique also urged the encouragement of local citizens to “legally participate” in the oil industry, promotion of attitudinal change among stakeholders, and objective use of the social media and internet to promote transparency.
About two dozen journalists participated in the workshop which was tagged ‘Transparency and Accountability in the Oil Sector,’ hosted by HEDA, with support from FOSTER (Oxford Policy Management).
Participants noted that Nigeria’s oil resource economy has generated more crises than national unity and development.
“Oil theft seems unstoppable because Niger Deltans have lost most of their legal means of livelihood and they can only fall back on illegal oil businesses,” participants stated.
“Oil theft and illegal refining also seem unstoppable because agencies of government including security agencies and ‘powerful’ elites have been found to be deeply involved.
“While illegal refining is smaller in scale and financial worth, oil theft is more lucrative and larger in scale.”
Participants also noted that oil theft serves international interests, while illegal refining serves local interest, adding that the negative environmental impact of oil theft is felt across Nigeria.
In his welcome address, Olanrewaju Suraju, Executive Director of HEDA, said that the session was an opportunity to forge deeper engagement between journalists and the civil society.
“The issue of oil theft is a major national and international embarrassment,” said Mr. Suraju.
“This is an opportunity to open and sustain an engagement and create an additional platform for the media and civil society to focus on the oil industry,” he added.