Nigeria ordered an investigation into illegal oil bunkering, a shadowy industry thought to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year in Africa’s biggest crude exporter.
Nigeria’s production capacity has been slashed by thieves drilling into pipelines that pass through winding creeks and waterways in the vast Niger Delta region.
“There is a an unprecedented upsurge of illegal bunkering activities within the Nigerian coastal region, resulting in the daily threat of vandalization of oil pipelines and other facilities and general state of insecurity in the country,” said assembly member Daniel Rayenieju, who presented the motion, Reuters reports.
The resolution said the inquiry would need to answer pressing questions including who owns the illegal bunkering vessels in Nigerian waters and why is it difficult to stop them, what happens to the seized crude oil and who buys it internationally.
The answers could prove embarrassing for Nigerian politicians and security agents, some of whom are thought to collude in the underground trade.
A U.S. diplomatic cable leaked to whistle-blower website Wikileaks in August said the political elite and soldiers were profiting from large-scale oil theft in the Niger Delta that may cost the country up to a tenth of its production.
Nigerian authorities said on Monday they had arrested two oil thieves and seized a boat used by them to sell illegally refined fuel along a river Niger Delta.