Military ops in Niger Delta: Shifting attention from the real oil thieves

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By Ifeanyi Izeze

It is an aberration that the Nigerian government is spending billions of naira annually on the fleet of military operations to clamp down on illegal refiners while the arenas of stealing of Nigerian crude oil on industrial scale are left unchecked. Is it not curious that the government is spending so much chasing petty thieves while ignoring or rather shielding the big time plunderers?

For want of a better description, the Joint Military Operations in the entire oil producing Niger Delta region could best be described as an outright distraction to divert attention from where the real crime of crude oil stealing is taking place.

The nation’s deep and ultra-deep offshore arena is littered with scores of massive floating-production and storage platforms (FPSOs) bleeding some of the nation’s most prolific wells and fields and yet these facilities are either poorly monitored or even unmonitored at all.

The tragedy of the Nigerian situation is that this daily bleeding and economic sabotage is carried out in the full glare of officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and National Petroleum Investment Services (NAPIMS), an NNPC subsidiary, who work at the platforms but either do not know what they are supposed to be doing at those facilities or were directed by their superior officers in the office to ‘cooperate’ with the foreign operators. DPR that is statutorily mandated to regulate the activities of the International Oil Companies (IOCs), and NAPIMS that should be the government’s eyes at the various facilities are at best languid and worst compromised with high level government complicity and conspiracy.

Without mincing words, our deep and ultra-deep offshore areas have become convenient arenas for stealing millions of barrels of the nation’s crude oil every day. The opaqueness in production activities by the IOCs in these arenas appears deliberately contrived to enable seamless stealing/siphoning of Nigeria’s crude oil resources.

Is it not absurd or rather shameful that in this 21st century Nigeria cannot state with exactness the amount of crude it produces daily? Contrary to what some people want us to believe, the pipeline tampering for illegal refining is just not where the real problem lies. On daily basis, Nigeria still loses over 2 million barrels to corporate oil thieves. This is the truth that is bitter!

The core issue facilitating the massive stealing of Nigeria’s crude oil and gas is the failure and /or refusal of operators in the industry and regulatory bodies to publicly disclose or engage easily available scientific templates for precise measurements of the volume of all oil and gas produced in Nigeria, particularly at the well heads.Some civil society groups in the country had long been advocating that the federal government should insist the IOCs publish what they pump at production points – PWUP, to enhance transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector, but up till now our rulers have remained deaf and dumb to that clamour and that’s for obvious reasons.

The continued resistance of the oil companies to metering oil and gas production output at well heads and flow stations and the acquiescing of DPR, NAPIMS as well as other institutions of government can only point to collusion between the IOCs and powerful government officials who benefit from the massive oil theft. Nigeria may well be pumping up to 5 million barrels of crude oil every day from its oilfields particularly those in the deep and ultra-deep offshore arenas.

This explains why most of the major oil companies have been reluctant to accept more precise methods, such as metering at the well heads or flowstations, due to the very fact that the old system is convenient for their manipulations. How is it that other major oil producing countries like Saudi Arabia, Norway, USA, Brazil, Kuwait etc had put in place long ago technologies to measure crude oil being extracted at production points yet Nigeria’s is still estimated.

The National Assembly should rise up and help save this nation of this embarrassing situation. Insisting on every producer installing a metering device at every wellhead, as small as it may look, may well go a long way to check these dubious volume declaration s of produced crude by the NNPC and its joint venture partners. It is not out of place to engage experts/consultants to work out the modalities and advice them on this.

Those who know would agree that even at the nation’s various export terminal facilities onshore/nearshore , the foreign oil companies base their total production figures on unconventional volume estimates that is dubious and outrightly susceptible to manipulation by mere altering of the physical properties of the crude at the export facilities. Was it me who established that transnational oil companies in collusion with top government officials in the NNPC and some of its subsidiaries particularly NAPIMS, with impunity have been engaged in unauthorised lifting or lifting in excess of approved quantities of crude oil from the nation’s export terminals? The Chatham House report confirmed this!

Most times, what oil tankers declare they load at Nigerian ports are far lower than what the vessels discharges on arrival at ports in America and other destinations across Europe. These were facts established by a team of experts. Just imagine what this country would have lost over the years to these dubious business practices of the foreign multinational oil operators who come from countries that lecture us every day on integrity and transparency in business transactions!

Recently, a consortium of Nigerian lawyers and some foreign due diligence experts embarked on an investigation on the stealing in this sector and established that ‘some shiploads registered less when they left Nigeria and more on reaching the United States, while some entire shiploads were undeclared in Nigeria.

The U.S.-based ImportGenius database was used by the attorneys to confirm declarations made to U.S. customs by shippers and importers from Nigeria and it was discovered that between January 2011 and December 2014, in Philadelphia port in USA, over 60.2 million barrels of oil valued at $12.7 billion were not recorded in Nigeria but recorded there in US, a country that maintains detail record for the purpose of taxation. That’s just one discharge port in US. If you take all the ports in US where our oil was discharged at that period, for sure Nigeria must have been short-changed to the tune of over $200 billion. Now go to China, India, Britain, France, Italy and all the countries that our oil was taken to, you’ll begin to imagine what these dubious foreign operators and their Nigerian collaborators including top officials of the NNPC, NAPIMS, and people around power had done and are still doing to this country.

The Nigerian subsidiaries of the Anglo-Dutch Shell, Italian ENI (Agip) and the American Exxon/Mobil were among the identified major culprits in these dubious transactions.

And this is where the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) would have come in but for the gross handicap of the disabled and at the same time a very unserious and corrupt anti-graft agency. Walai, we need to be more serious as a country. Does the EFCC have the capability to check oil stealing and the transmission of proceeds from the crime across the globe? The answer is no!

Non- declaration and/or under declaration of shipments is practically impossible if a Nigerian or some Nigerians did not play vital roles in the chain of events leading to the stealing of the huge sums. So who are these Nigerians or their proxies? We can do better to unmask these people if we are serious as a nation. God bless Nigeria!

(IFEANYI IZEZE lives in Abuja: iizeze@yahoo.com; 234-8033043009)

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