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Reps raise alarm over falling crude prices

•Gbajabiamila, NNPC differ on $20.4bn loss to oil theft

The House of Representatives has raised the alarm over the sharp fall in global oil prices, noting the adverse effect it will have on Nigeria’s economy, especially the implementation of the 2020 Appropriation Act.

The House, therefore, mandated its committees on Finance, Petroleum, and Budget and National Planning to interface with the executive arm of the Federal Government and report back within two weeks.

At the plenary on Tuesday, the Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Mr James Faleke, moved a motion of urgent public importance, warning that the coronavirus outbreak, causing oil prices to fall, would frustrate the 2020 budget.

Moving the motion, which the lawmakers unanimously adopted, Faleke said, “The House notes the outbreak of Covid-19 and its effects on global economy.

“The House also notes the current price of oil, which has dropped to $30 from $65 per barrel. The House is worried that our appropriation bill placed oil price at $57.

“The current price of oil at $30 means that the Appropriations Act 2020 may suffer implementation.”

The Federal Government had on Monday announced plans to cut the country’s 2020 budget.

The President, Muhammadu Buhari, was billed to get a report on Tuesday, on what his regime could do to salvage the N10.59tn budget.

The budget review committee, which was set up by Buhari on Monday, is chaired by the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, on Tuesday said Nigeria was losing 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day, amounting to about $20.4bn annually to theft.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, however, said there was no record of the amount of oil being lost to theft daily.

According to the NNPC, oil theft is caused by criminality and historical neglect of the host communities.

The Speaker had made his position know at an investigative hearing organised by an ad hoc committee of the House on crude oil theft, chaired by the Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Peter Akpatason.

Gbajabiamila described oil theft as the worst form of economic sabotage.However, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mele Kyari stated that the corporation did not have records of the amount of crude stolen from the country on a daily basis.

Kyari, who was represented by the Chief Operating Officer, Upstream, of the NNPC, Mr Roland Ewubare, argued that criminality and historical neglect of the oil-producing areas are the factors causing oil theft.

Disagreeing with the lawmakers, the NNPC boss noted that while Akpatason said 200,000 barrels were being lost to theft daily, Gbajabiamila said 400,000 barrels.

The Commander of the Joint Military Task Force in the Niger Delta, codenamed Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Akinjide Akinrinade, who corroborated Kyari, disclosed that meters installed on the pipelines were not working, making it difficult to say the exact amount of crude stolen daily.

Akinrinade also disclosed that between 2017 and 2019, the JTF destroyed about 4219 illegal refineries in the Niger Delta, and confiscated about 332,403 metric tonnes of crude oil.