ABUJA, Feb 20 (Reuters) – Thirteen Filipinos were sentenced to five years in jail or a $6,770 fine on Friday after pleading guilty to handling oil products suspected to have been stolen in the Niger Delta.
The military arrested them in November after intercepting a vessel suspected of carrying 12,000 tonnes of stolen crude oil in the delta, the heart of Nigeria’s oil sector.
Nigeria is the world’s eighth biggest exporter of crude oil but thieves take a sizeable proportion of its output by drilling into pipelines or hijacking barges loaded with oil, theft known locally as “bunkering”.
“The accused persons, who initially pleaded not guilty on arraignment, later changed their plea and they were found guilty based on their plea,” said a spokesman for Nigeria’s anti- corruption police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Some estimates say 100,000 barrels of crude are stolen from the Niger Delta each day, about five percent of the country’s production and equivalent to around $4 million daily or $1.5 billion a year at current prices.
It is shipped out of Nigeria and sold on the international market. Human Rights Watch has put the amount stolen at two or three times that level.
Last week, the military impounded 22 barges of stolen crude oil in the delta in what it said was its biggest seizure for months. (Reporting by Randy Fabi, edited by Richard Meares)