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Nigeria loses $6bn to illegal oil market

Feb 19 2013 18:31 AFP

Highly organised crude oil theft has grown into a major problem in Nigeria, which derives some 80% of government revenue from the oil industry. (File, AP)

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Abuja - Nigeria has appealed to foreign governments to help crack down on crude oil theft, the oil minister said on Tuesday of the illicit industry that robs Africa's biggest oil producer of some $6bn per year.

However, industry officials from Shell and other firms say more needs to be done within Nigeria itself to stop or at least slow the sabotage of pipelines and theft of oil that feeds a lucrative black market.

President Goodluck Jonathan discussed the issue with British Prime Minister David Cameron during a visit to London earlier this month, Oil Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke told an oil industry conference in Abuja.

In addition to efforts by the country's security forces, Nigeria wants international cooperation to crack down on laundering of oil theft money through global banks linked as well as the refining of stolen crude, which often occurs abroad, she said.

Jonathan "has also started reaching out to his counterparts in various countries where we feel some of our products are being refined in, and also where fiscal entities throughout the world are laundering the funds that are made as a result ...," said Alison-Madueke.

Highly organised crude oil theft has grown into a major problem in Nigeria, which derives some 80% of government revenue from the oil industry.

While a 2009 amnesty deal led to a sharp decline in unrest in the oil-producing Niger Delta region, criminality is still widespread, and some in the industry allege oil theft has worsened.

Besides robbing the country of an estimated $6bn (€4.5bn) a year in revenue, it also often causes pipeline shutdowns since thieves sometimes sabotage them before stealing oil.

There have long been accusations of high-level Nigerian figures being involved in crude theft, as well as members of the security forces, which have repeatedly denied the accusations.

A recent report on the oil industry by a government-appointed task force alleged there was evidence security forces profited from the illegal oil industry.

Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer, with current output at around 2.0 million barrels per day. However, most of the country lives on less than $2 per day, despite the country's oil wealth.

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