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Okuama killings: Non-state actors can’t be trusted with oil pipelines’ protection, says ex-minister 

Tajudeen Olanrewaju, a former minister of communications, says “repentant” non-state actors cannot be trusted with the security of Nigeria’s oil pipelines.

On March 14, Mele Kyari, group chief executive officer (GCEO) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, said the national oil firm is unable to deal with the scale of crude oil theft in the country.

In December 2023, Kyari told the senate committee on appropriations that there were 4,800 illegal connections on over 5,000 kilometres of oil pipelines across Nigeria.

Olanrewanju, in a statement on the killing of 17 soldiers in the Okuama community of Delta state, said the nation’s security agencies should consider a new arrangement to avoid a similar development in another oil-producing community.

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He said the military should be well-positioned and equipped to protect the oil pipelines, adding that the “so-called non-state actors cannot protect our oil pipelines for lack of total patriotism”. 

“That event in Okuama gives me an unsettled mind about events surrounding the nation’s high volumes of oil deposits in the Western Delta,” the statement reads. 

“The consequences of collateral damages resulting from gang warfare between two warring communities of Okuama and Okoloba could lead to further serious consequences of collateral damages to our national assets as a result of this unwarranted conflict. 

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“I believe strongly that the federal government should reconsider a new security protection template for our oil rich region, not on a piece meal basis but the entire oil belt in the country.

“The Okuama community’s land conflict of this nature with its neighbour may signal a new build-up of community warfare that can snowball into a bigger conflict in the region.

“Who knows? The earlier the federal government steps in quickly and keeps the smoldering smoke down as fast as possible, the better in the oil region.

“I have made the points that the so-called non-state actors cannot protect our oil pipelines for lack of total patriotism.

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“The nation needs a national institution to protect our national assets. We need to apply capital punishment for offences relating to oil theft in the Niger Delta region and banditry around our mining states.

“The nation derives its revenues from these resources. This definition has to be made clear in our laws and the Constitution. Those soldiers must not die in vain.

“There is nowhere in the world where some sections of the society will be fighting unprotected military officers on peace mission.

“It is because of armed forces, as an institution, and police that Nigeria is still united. And for a set of people to gang up to cut, burn and kill military officers? It is not done and must not be allowed to be pushed under. Perpetrators must be fished out and punished.”

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