President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday described Nigeria as the only country in the world where crude oil is stolen at an alarming rate, saying the situation has reached the stage of a full-blown cancer.
He also said he has not decided whether to run for the presidency in 2015, as he needed more time to attend to security and economic matters plaguing the country before thinking of 2015 politics.
While responding to questions at a "Presidential Media Chat" televised live last night, Jonathan said while the issue of whether he will seek a second term in 2015 was overheating the country's political environment, "it is not proper for a Nigerian president to make comments on 2015 at this stage".
Hinting that he would make his decision public by the end of 2013, the president urged Nigerians to allow him to use two years-plus to tackle economic and security issues. He cited a country like Ghana where, he said, things are haphazard because, right from day one after their general elections, campaigns begin in top gear for the next one.
"Let us leave 2015 issue. When INEC opens the gate we will know who is to contest and who will not contest," he said, adding that he should not be dragged into making statements that the media could begin to mis-interpret the next day.
Expressing worry over crude oil theft in Nigeria, Jonathan said: "The stealing of crude oil appears to be in Nigeria. It is not happening elsewhere. It is like a cancerous cell. A cancerous cell starts developing somewhere in your body, either in your prostate region or in your breast and they won't notice it still; or probably when they notice it, they think that it is ordinary boil. It gets to a point where, when they know, they cannot control it.
"We have held serious meetings between security services, the private sector like Shell and all the key oil players. We have been holding meetings. They will have to stop it. But it is like allowing a cancerous cell to develop a major tumour that even spreads to the critical organs. So, we need stronger effort. We need to spend more money than to spend more days in the hospital. That is where we are. We will crush it; we are on it. Because there is no county where they are stealing crude oil the way they are stealing in Nigeria."
Noting that classifying the stealing of crude oil as oil bunkering was not proper, the president said, "the word bunkering I knew when I was in the customs in Port Harcourt, happens in a way that when ships come, there are big companies that are legalised to go and sell them in water. But, here, somebody goes there to open a pipe and steal crude oil and they call it bunkering. I don't know whether, technically, it's bunkering. I call it crude oil stealing. It is not bunkering. Those who still crude oil are thieves. They are common criminals."
Related stories: Nigeria loses $20bn in oil theft yearly