A fortnight ago, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had cause to celebrate a drop in cases of pipeline vandalism in the country.
To most Nigerians, it might have been just another loud noise made by one of the numerous government agencies known for such. In this case, however, the noise was worth it, considering the battles that have been waged against oil theft and the commensurate pushback by the criminals, who are not prepared to cave in.
Even though the NNPC appears to be winning at the moment, the fact remains that the momentum has to be sustained as those behind the very financially rewarding criminality are likely to be merely restrategising.
With a 37.21 per cent drop for the month of January 2021, everything points to the fact that just a little more can be done to make things better. In the current dispensation, the report indicates that a total of 27 pipeline points were vandalised in January 2021 down from the 43 points recorded in December 2020. Specifically, the Mosimi Area accounted for 74 per cent of the vandalised points while Kaduna Area and Port Harcourt accounted for the remaining 22 per cent and four per cent respectively.
No doubt, the corporation has embraced one of the best strategies to curtail and contain the menace by collaborating with communities hosting the pipelines. This has largely paid off in cutting down oil theft, which has seen revenue from going into private hands unaccounted for. Recall that a report, last year, said Nigeria suffered a huge loss of $750 million (N270 billion) to oil theft in 2019.
From the estimation, the loss surpassed total budget for capital expenditure of N229.15 billion ($636.53) by the Federal Government for health between 2015 and 2019. Despite efforts put in place by government through increased security presence around oil installations, Nigeria ranked number one in the top five countries with the highest oil theft in 2014.
As much as 400,000 barrels of oil a day are stolen in Nigeria through pipeline or wellheads theft, Illegal bunkering and over lifting. Over the years, different figures of how much has been lost have been presented. Even if such figures appear not to tally, it is essentially important to note that the conveyors and every genuine and patriotic Nigerian are particularly concerned about the gradual damage the sabotage is doing to the economy.
While figures from government at a time put the loss at between 150,000 and 250,000 barrels per day, data from private studies estimate the figure to be between 200,000 and 400,000 barrels per day.
This implies that Nigeria may be losing up to a fifth of its daily crude oil production to oil thieves and pipeline vandals. It is instructive to acknowledge that in the past few years, Nigeria has been so lucky with crude oil production for the fact that attacks by Niger Delta militants on facilities that brought production from over two million barrels per day to as low as 800,000 barrels per day have been largely contained. While the opportunity provided by the smooth production process is also being misapplied by government itself through series of financial recklessness and misadventure, it has become more disturbing that criminal elements have also resolved to help themselves to the reserves.
It is disheartening that while the country is currently wallowing in debts of over N30 trillion and still searching everywhere to borrow more, oil thieves are having a field day vandalising and scooping the nation’s number one money supplier.
To understand the level of seriousness, an ad-hoc committee set up by the Federal Government in the past had expressed surprise at the huge losses. In fact, the NNPC reported to the committee that 22.6 million barrels of crude oil valued at approximately $1.35 billion was lost during the first half of 2019, and that if this situation was not contained in two years the country would have lost in excess of $2.7 billion.
It is lamentable that despite the huge amount of money running into billions of naira for security and surveillance, theft of crude oil has yet to be a thing of the past.
From a statistics made available for early part of 2019, losses that were recorded included those at Nembe creek trunk-line, 9.2 million barrels, Trans-Niger pipeline, 8.6 million barrels, Trans-Focadoes Pipeline, 3.9 million barrel, and Trans-Escravos pipe, 877,000 barrels. In all of this, however, the irony remains that the bigwigs in the network of pipeline vandalism are hardly brought to book.
As the situation appears to have defied current logic to end it, we advise that a secondary approach, which should include special oil community policing be put in place to either eliminate or extensively curtail it. It is also instructive to remind government of the need to sign the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) into law as a way of giving an opportunity to oil community indigenes the responsibility to jealously guard their resources.
As a matter of fact, we advise the NNPC to sustain whatever strategy it has adopted that appears to be working. This is necessary to avoid a fallback to the dark days when every community hosting oil pipeline saw it as part of its national cake to feast on.