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Oil theft: Military halts Kachikwu’s drone deployment plan



Oil theft: Military halts Kachikwu’s drone deployment plan

The military has halted plans by minister of state for petroleum resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, to tackle pipeline vandalism with drones’ deployment, which cost Nigeria $7 billion annual loss, New Telegraph has gathered. This newspaper understands that the military’s opposition to the deployment of this technology was also reinforced by dearth of law, rules or guidelines for the deployment of such technology.

A source at the Ministry of Petroleum Resources said that the military’s stance was also supported by security agencies such as the Department of States Security (DSS), which cited security threats, to oppose the use of drones.

The security agents were said to have insisted on the need to guide against allowing the technology to slip into the hands of terrorists, militants and kidnappers, who they fear, could use the technology against the country. Kachikwu had, while presiding over affairs of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as its Group Managing Director, said in September 2015, that vandalism and oil theft would be eradicated in May 2016, being the next eight months (then) as the Corporation, he said, had put in place measures to check the menace and bring perpetrators to book.

The fight to stop these menaces was, according to Kachikwu who spoke at a one-day seminar on Security in the Gulf of Guinea, organised by the Gusau Institute in Abuja, not only for NNPC, but also all Nigerians, as the effect of crude oil theft was on all Nigerians.

He said: “It is a major concern for the President and a major concern for all of us in the industry and we are focused on trying to find solutions. “We have marshalled out an armada of approaches to this, which include incorporating drones to check movement within our territorial waters towards the ship; we are looking at logistical ways of changing something at our crude oil loading bays; we are trying to equip the Navy sufficiently, in terms of skills and not in terms of arsenal. We are trying to take the bull by the horns to ensure that they patrol within the maritime zone. “But more fundamentally, the pipelines that carry oil and crude will have to be policed.”

This plan has, however, been slowed down while the eight – month deadline to end vandalism over optimism of the drone deployment has been missed. Said the source: “The hierarchy of the military had, at several meetings with the minister, cautioned against the use of this technology until necessary things are put in place to avoid putting the country’s territorial integrity in jeopardy.” This caveat emptor is not only for government. He explained that it is in place also for the international oil companies (IOCs) who have quickly jumped at this technology.

The source also explained: “Shell, for instance, is using a similar technology called Remotely Operated Aerial Vehicles (ROAV) for pipelines incidents in Bonny terminals and other areas. They consider this a better alternative to the helicopter surveillance and believe that if you lose an ROAV it is just a thousand dollars.

“This effort, which is being embraced by other IOCs is, however, constrained by the military, which cited the same reason it frowned at the deployment by NNPC,” he added. Kacchikwu, it would be recalled, had lamented that the present “attempt at policing the pipelines has not worked, so we are thinking of changing the personnel, using more of the military, but also getting into dealing with the community, which ultimately is the best security in dealing with these pipelines, as we try to create more incentives for them to own the pipelines.”

According to the then NNPC boss, some of these measures include the introduction of drones to monitor the pipelines as well as patrol the country’s coastal waters; equipping and increasing the capabilities of the security services to carry out their responsibilities and the engagement of communities to police pipelines in their areas.

While promising to introduce transparency in running the NNPC, Kachikwu revealed that the PPMC would be broken up into several companies with one solely in charge of pipelines while another would be in charge of products at the depots. He acknowledged: “Oil theft is a major issue for us.

We lose an average of about 50,000 barrels of oil. We lose about $3-$4 billion of revenue and that is just in terms of crude oil itself. When you get to pipelines, most of our pipelines are ruptured and attacked fairly frequently.

“Between June 2014 and June 2015, we recorded between 3,400 and 4,000 attacks on the various pipelines in the country. The effect is a shut-in of about 250,000 barrels a day and when you calculate that, you have a net loss of over $7 billion. “A lot is happening. More challenges are going to be there, but we are going to be able to solve the problems. We have given ourselves eight months within which we will hopefully completely eradicate the issue of oil theft in Nigeria.

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