By Bassey Udo
With crude oil theft and vandslism posing a clear and present threat to the growth of the country’s oil and gas industry as well as the economy, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, and the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Ltd, Mele Kyari, on Wednesday stormed the Niger Delta creeks determined to halt the threat.
Accompanied by the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Gbenga Komolafe; Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor, a General of the Nigerian Army, and security operatives, the two top officials bemoaned the menace of crude oil theft on the industry and the economy, and expressed the need for urgent ways to bring them to an end.
Nigerians are worried
In recent times, prominent Nigerians and key interest groups in the country’s oil and gas industry have voiced their deep concerns about a situation where the bulk of the country’s daily oil output were lost to either crude oil theft or crude oil pipelines vandalism.
Some have even blamed the inability of Nigeria to meet its Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quota on the menace of crude oil theft and vandalism.
Two top executives of two indigenous players in the industry earlier this week spoke forcefully against the dangers of crude oil theft and the need for the government to take decisive actions against it.
Apart from the former Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Energy Plc, Austin Avuru, who said about 80 percent of the country’s total oil output were being stolen daily, the Chairman of Transnational Corporation (Transcorp), operator of Trans-Niger Oil & Gas Limited (TNOG), said about 95 percent of crude oil produced in the Niger Delta region does not get to the terminal for export.
Buhari is concerned
But the challenge posed by the twin menace is said to be of personal concern to President Muhammadu Buhari, who, recently, gave the marching orders to both Sylva and Kyari to find immediate and lasting solutions them.
Speaking on Wednesday in Port Harcourt at the end of a copter overfly tour of areas of the Niger Delta where crude oil theft is reportedly most thriving, Sylva and Kyari saw in graphic details, and at close quarters, the ugly faces of crude oil theft, vandalism and illegal crude oil refining.
On his part, Sylva warned crude oil thieves and pipeline vandals that the Federal Government was committed now more than ever before to see the end of the menaces currently threatening to cripple the country’s economy.
Sylva said the tour of the region was part of a joint effort by concerned industry stakeholders to stamp out the huge losses, in terms of revenues, as a result of crude oil theft and vandalism in the country’s oil and gas industry.
The minister identified insecurity as the biggest challenge facing the country’s oil sector.
He said after receiving a comprehensive briefing on the devastating impact of crude oil theft on the industry and economy, President Buhari tasked him, Kyari, the CDS to “once and for all resolve the challenge.”
The three-pronged approach
To tackle the challenge, Sylva said a three-pronged approach was adopted to resolve the cases of oil bunkering and crude oil theft.
The approach, he said, would involve the communities, by resolving the conflict that seem to underline the discontent in the Niger Delta; security agencies, by maintaining the security of the region, and the government, by determining to enforce the laws to guarantee the security of the region.
“These people are not ghosts. They are from the communities, hence the need for community involvement.
“Security agencies must be involved, amd government must be involved.
We hope this problem is resolved, as soon as possible as government is determined to stop the losses. We can’t afford the challenge of insecurity.
“These criminals have their days numbered. We are here to resolve the issue. We will reclaim the industry for the country.” Sylva said.
Kyari decries oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism
The NNPC GMD said oil bunkering, pipeline vandalism and illegal refining activities were threatening the growth of the country’s oil industry.
To halt the increasing spate of crude oil theft and the wanton destruction of the environment, which he said cost the country enormous revenue, Kyari, who was part of the federal government delegation to the Niger Delta region, said the new aproach must not fail.
The team visited various crude oik theft and bumkering sites in Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Abia States where illegal oil refining are sais to predominanly being carried out in the the
At Ibaa in Emeoha Local Government of Rivers state, Kyari said the country can no longer afford to see her crude oil being illegally exploited and stolen with such reckless abandon.
The NNPC GMD expressed confidence that the current strategy adopted by the government to tackle the menace would finally pay off and the situation checked once and for all.
While commending the security agencies for their efforts in tackling the problem, Kyari said this would help the country recoverbthe much needed resources for economic development.
“Nobody is left out in the quest to find a lasting solution to the losses through crude oil theft. The task to destroy illegal oil refineries and stop stealing of crude oil will not stop until they are halted,” Kyari said.
Komolafe unfolds foresic audit The NUPRC CEO, Komolafe, said the tour of the areas was part of the government’s attempt to unravel the truth about the menace of crude oil theft.
He said a team of experts was on Tuesday constituted, with a mandate to conduct an audit of the activities of the operators in the last two years, to ascertain the actual volume of crude oil either stolen by vandals, or lost through the activities of saboteurs.
“The panel is expected to carry out a forensic investigation of the claims and counter-claims by the operators, to get to the root of the problem.
“The audit would cover the technical and commercial operations of all the oil companies in the Niger Delta region involved in drilling and selling of the crude oil produced in the country,” he said.
The Force Commander, Joint Task Force, South South Operation Delta Force, A. Hassan, a Real Admiral, said each of the four sub-sectors of its operations is assigned with specific responsibilities.
At the Trans-Niger pipeline, he said following a force majeure declared by Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited following a crisis in the area, efforts had begun to “bring the company back to operations.”
Hassan said the challenge metamorphosed into complex crisis, with the communities and families existing at daggers drawn with the oil companies over demands for improved welfare.
He solicited the help of the government to curb incessant cases of oil bunkering and pipeline vandalism in the region.