By Adewale Sanyaolu
Whether Modest progress in recent weeks against the crude-stealing monsters in the Niger Delta holds, Nigeria’s oil production figures and revenues currently below a million barrels a day could resume a rebound.
Industry watchers who believe the oil thieves sabotaging the country’s economic fortunes are human, have consistently urged a change in strategy to deal with the threat.
To put its action to work, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) engaged stakeholders on the best possible way to end the national embarrassment.
NNPCL Group Managing Director, Mr. Mele Kyari in his efforts to end the challenge had engaged security agencies including; military, police, navy, DSS, civil defense, community leaders, CSOs and governors of oil producing states, among others.
It is indeed glaring that some of these initiatives have begun to produce the positive results needed to increase oil revenues and reduce the environmental impact of oil theft in the communities where these acts are perpetrated.
Although oil theft and vandalism seem to persist in the oilfields of In the country, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) said it worked with relevant security agencies to crack down on saboteurs.
Speaking before the Joint Senate Committees on Petroleum (Upstream and Downstream) and Gas last week, NNPC GMD, Mr. Mele Kyari, reiterated his collaboration with relevant security agencies to crack down on saboteurs.
He noted that Nigeria is in a calamitous situation due to oil theft and vandalism of pipelines with low production, and at least 395 illegal refineries have been disabled.
The NNPCL revealed earlier that it was losing 470,000 bpd of crude oil worth $700 million per month due to oil theft.
In the hearing that lasted more than four hours, Kyari said over the past six weeks, 395 illegal refineries were disabled, 274 tanks destroyed, 1,561 metal tanks destroyed, 49 trucks seized and an illegal oil connection line of 4 kilometers between the Forcados terminal and the sea – which had been operating undetected for nine years – detected.
NNPCL’s latest efforts and findings to combat oil theft are perhaps not unrelated to its recent efforts to introduce an app that detects oil theft alongside the engagement of a private security team to monitor pipelines across the country.
NNPC unveils app to verify oil theft
NNPCL last August launched an application platform to monitor crude oil theft in the country on the sidelines of the signing of new Production Sharing Contract (PSC) agreements between it and its partners in oil mining leases. .
The “Crude Theft Monitoring Applications” platform according to NNPC Limited was created for members of host communities and other Nigerians to report oil theft incidents and get rewarded.
He said the country had already lost $1.5 billion so far in 2022 due to escalating pipeline vandalism. Mr Kyari said the country was losing 95% of its oil production to oil thieves at Bonny Terminal in Rivers State.
“Vandal acts on pipelines have become a difficult thing to manage. There is still activity by oil thieves and vandals on our pipelines and assets, very visible in the form of illegal refineries being continually set up in certain locations and insertions into our pipeline network.
“Arrests have been made and ships have been detained by the Nigerian Navy, I commend the Armed Forces, in the last three months they have done a thorough job and destroyed some illegal refineries.
“First, we have created a platform where community members and other Nigerians can report every incident of theft, reward them and keep them confidential and private.
“We at NNPC will guarantee absolute confidentiality on any such report and I am handling it directly myself as no one will be exposed.”
Kyari urged businesses to report suspicious sales even internationally.
Pipeline Monitoring Agreement Records Success
In its latest effort to combat oil theft, NNPCL recently renewed a multi-million dollar pipeline surveillance contract with Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited in which a former militant leader and commander of the defunct Delta Emancipation Movement of Niger (MEND), the government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo is interested in.
The agreement with the company to end illegal bunkering, illegal refining and other forms of oil theft in the Niger Delta has begun to show some level of progress.
But a few months after the deal was struck, Tantita Limited scored its first major breakthrough when it uncovered an illegal pipeline that has been running for about nine years and is directly connected to the high seas.
In a shocking revelation, Kyari told how an illegal oil pipeline connecting directly to the high seas was recently discovered.
Kyari said the main oil export terminal whose products had been diverted into the sea had been operating undetected for nine years.
The four kilometer or 2.5 mile connection from the Forcados export terminal, which typically exports around 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil, to the sea was uncovered during a crackdown on theft in the last six weeks, Kyari said during a meeting. with the Nigerian Senate.
“Oil theft in the country has been going on for more than 22 years, but the scale and pace it has taken in recent times is unprecedented,” Kyari told lawmakers.
“But in rising to the very disturbing challenge, NNPC, in conjunction with relevant security agencies, has recently cracked down on economic saboteurs.
“During the crackdown over the past six weeks, 395 illegal refineries have been disabled, 274 tanks destroyed, 1,561 metal tanks destroyed, 49 trucks seized.
“Most striking of all is the four-kilometer illegal oil connection line between the Forcados terminal and the sea, which had been operating undetected for nine consecutive years,” he added.
While the dust generated by the discovery of the illegal pipeline had yet to settle, members of the newly established Coastal Areas Pipeline Monitoring Team, Tantita Security Services Nigeria Limited (TSSNL), broke last weekend a ship with stolen Nigerian oil.
Following the discovery, NNPCL and other leading security agencies reportedly oversaw the burning of the vessel laden with illegal Escravos crude oil near Warri in Delta State.
The oil taker, named MT Deinmo, International Maritime Organization (IMO) number 7210526, was believed to have been loaded with an unspecified quantity of crude oil at the time of the arrest last weekend, with a crew of 8 all-Nigerian men.
According to The Whistler Online, the vessel was set on fire by security agencies in the presence of National Petroleum Investments Management Services group chief executive Mr. Bala Wunti.
Speaking in an interview shortly after the ship was destroyed, Wunti said the rule of engagement was strictly adhered to while carrying out the exercise.
NNPCL wants special tribunal for oil thieves
Kyari had requested last April the establishment of a special tribunal to prosecute illegal operators of refineries.
The GCEO had, during its appearance before the House of Representatives Petroleum (Upstream) Committee, denounced the increase in crude oil thefts in the country.
He revealed that more than $4 billion in product value was lost to illegal refinery operators in 2021, with a further $1.5 billion lost so far in 2022.
He said that whenever there is an increase in the price of crude oil in the world market, the activities of oil thieves increase, thus leading to a drop in production.
” It’s worrying. There are so many illegal settlements along all of our terminals, and the number is increasing every day. It will be very important if the government sets up a special court for a speedy trial of illegal refinery operators in this country,” he said.
Kyari blamed the reduction in production on “the massive act of vandals and thieves”, stressing the need for the government to adopt measures that would cushion the adverse effects of economic sabotage on the economy.
He lamented the environmental degradation in oil-producing areas due to the activities of vandals, saying that illegal oil colonies are scattered around the company’s terminals.
Kyari’s appeal had already been sought in 2019 by a 13-man National Executive Council (NEC) sub-committee chaired by Edo State Governor Mr Godwin Obaseki, mandated to investigate the impact attacks on oil installations in the creeks of the Niger. Delta recommended a special tribunal to try the oil thieves.
This was even as the committee then revealed that Nigeria lost an estimated $1.3 billion worth of crude oil due to thefts and pipeline vandalism in the first quarter of 2019.
Obaseki said the slow and inadequate pursuit of thieves despite numerous arrests and seizures continued to fuel the threat.
He lamented that the lack of petroleum products at gas stations in most oil-producing communities around the Niger Delta forces them to resort to illegal bunkering and illegal refineries.
Obaseki, however, recommended that there is a need to restructure the maintenance and ownership of oil pipelines in order to curb perpetrators of theft of crude oil and other products.
“There should be special courts to try offenders and also a special legal task force to coordinate the prosecution of arrested offenders as well as special judges trained to deal with cases of oil theft.”