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Who is stealing Nigeria's oil?


Nearly 100,000 barrels of crude oil is stolen each day from Nigeria - about 5 per cent of the country's total output - yet the international community continues to turn a blind eye to the thefts.

Most of what is stolen is exported with proceeds laundered through world financial centres, according to a new report from the United Kingdom's Chatham House, a global think tank based in London.

For years, officials have known the problem exists but little has been done to stop it, says Christina Katsouris, the co-author of the report, "Nigeria's Criminal Crude: International Options to Combat the Export of Stolen Oil."

Theives tap into pipelines and other crude oil infrastructure in the Niger Delta to steal the oil and then it is pumped onto waiting barges or boats, the report states. Some of the crude is refined locally or it is shipped abroad.

"You can see it being stolen," Katsouris says in a YouTube video post.

Quite often, the criminals are messy and cause oil leaks, which often get blamed on the oil companies, she says. "It is horrendous, it leaves big black holes over what was once pristine swamps."

Bribery, corruption and organized crime fuels the thievery. And often, the product ends up on the legal market. "We tried to find cases of prosecution - money laundering linked to crude oil theft - and we couldn't find one," she says on YouTube.

Nigeria needs international help to stop the problem, she suggests.

First, Nigeria and the country's partners need to prioritize the gathering, analysis and sharing of intelligence on the problem, the report says. Figuring out how much is actually being stolen and tracking where the money is going would be a start.

Nigeria could also consider working with it's partners and build confidence by strengthening policies such as anti-bribery laws and they need to work with their neighbouring states to monitor the flow of stolen crude oil over the borders.

"Poor governance has encouraged violent opportunism around oil and opened doors for organized crime. Because Nigeria is the world's 13th largest oil producer – exports often topped two million barrels per day in 2012 – high rents are up for grabs," according to a Chatham House release.

Tanya Talaga is the Star's global economics reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga



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This is crazy 5% get stolen? You can not just put crude oil in your pocket and walk out the door, corruption is definitely to blame here. The problem is how far does this go? You can probably trace it all the way to the government or further.

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