The National Security Adviser, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, was widely reported recently as saying the country is still losing 400,000 barrels of crude oil daily to local and international oil thieves despite efforts to end the menace.
This was when he led a presidential delegation to inspect oil and gas facilities at Owaza in Abia and Odagwa in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers few weeks ago.
Sometime in April this year, former Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Timipre Sylva, cried to Nigerians that oil thieves make off with 400, 000 barrels of crude every day.
Mele Kyari, the chief executive officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company limited (NNPCL) have also serially trumpeted that same figure. Even the late Maikanta Baru, the NNPC group managing director before Mele Kyari, gave the same figure also as daily volumes the nation loses to oil thieves. The Nigerian Naval High Command also had dangled that figure severally in the past.
The question is: How possible is it that pockets of oil thieves working separately could be stealing a fixed volume of crude every day for one, two and even ten years running? Is it a constant as we were taught in science? Something is not adding up there.
In the first instance who measures and ascertains the actual volume loss- NNPCL, the Upstream Regulatory Commission, or the transnational joint venture operators? We need to first establish this if we are serious about solving this problem.
They may not want to hear this but the truth is that nobody in government even the Presidency where the Petroleum Minister operates from, knows the actual volume the nation loses on daily basis to theft. The nation may be losing far more volumes of crude to oil thieves than the figures we are being told. We may have been deceived to accept lower volume figures by those who are the real McCoy in this oil thieving business. When nobody, not even the Petroleum Minister nor the NNPCL boss knows for sure how much the nation produces on daily basis, how do you know how much is stolen or rather unaccounted for.
For a country that depends almost entirely on this economic good for its sustenance, this apathy by both the government and the citizen is difficult to understand.
Why has the government not been able to unmasked the real culprits behind this heinous crime or even to deconstruct the “structure of the enterprise” and if we don’t have the capability to unmask these people, why are we not calling for help from outside? For a country that depends almost entirely on this economic good for its sustenance, this apathy by both the government and the citizen is difficult to understand.
In the first instance, why would the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria want to also be the Minister in charge of a highly technical and sensitive sector like the Oil and Gas? If not for the absolute control of the big money spinning channels, what else can anyone give as the reason.
We cannot say Nigeria lacks well or even overqualified individuals both at home and abroad who are willingly ready to sacrifice personal gains/comfort for the corporate good of this country. Why are these competencies not deployed to the sector for a better administration?
The National Security Adviser is the man charged with finding ways to curb the existing security challenges/problems and crude oil theft falls within the purview of national security challenge. Now he is the one who comes to tell us what is being stolen on daily basis. Let’s look at it this way: There is a stealing problem in a company, you employed a security man and every morning he comes to tell you that there was another stealing the previous night. This is exactly what Nuhu Ribadu, the NSA is doing. In this situation, what do you do with or rather to the maiguard?
And talking the way he did obviously means he is not thinking deep about the problem and how to solve it. Clearly, he does not know what to do or how to do what needs to be done to stern this problem.
Except he is not yet fully functional as the National Security Adviser, if he is, Ribadu cannot pretend not to know that there is an existing “corruption structure” that is fuelling this crude oil theft in the country. Similar structure exists also in the downstream where the cabal has found importation of fuels too juicy to terminate it. They would rather that none of the existing NNPC refineries work to produce fuel for our domestic use.
There is so much being made and these thieving “structures” have been built into all the regulatory and policing institutions in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector. The problem now is not about who is behind it. People move in and move out of that structure, feeding very fat as they move. Any new minister or NSA that comes is initiated before he knows it. He only wakes up to realise that he has become a member of the cult and cannot talk while eating for that would be suicidal. This is the truth!
It’s not the “kporfire” vandals that are the problem in this embarrassing and awkward situation where 400,000 barrels or well over of crude oil disappears every day from our radar. How much can the local refiners steal in a day to refine in locally fabricated drums on firewood?
The real problem is the “thieves” that come with 2 million -barrel capacity vessels/tankers. The military dropping bombs in the creeks of the Niger Delta and telling us they are doing good job of stopping crude oil theft is self -deceit at best and at worst diversionary. They are only diverting attention from where the real problem is domiciled. It has been serially alleged that the military are on top of the crude oil stealing “food chain”.
Agreed that breaching the pipelines by the local refiners (smaller thieves) causes serious spillages and fire incidents in the affected areas but to tell me the “kporfire refiners” are responsible for the daily loss of over 400, 000 barrels of crude every day is a tale by the moonlight.
In mid-June this year, Niger Delta militant warlord, Asari Dokubo accused the military (Army and Navy) of being behind much of the oil theft in the Niger Delta, challenging them to clear their names if it was not so. Tompolo of the Tantia Securities had also made similar allegation in the recent past. These two Niger Delta men who also used to be part of the problem could not have spoken just like that! Since then, has anything concrete been done aside lip service?
Recall the story by the NNPCL boss, Mele Kyari: that a pipeline was connected to a major trunkline belonging to an NNPC Joint Venture around the Forcados export terminal operated by Shell and that this ‘illegal pipeline’ had been in use to steal crude oil for about 12 years. Haba Mallam! I worked in that area (Ogulagha) and I know the level of sophisticated surveillance that Shell had in and around the FT.
With all the surveillance technology in addition to armies of security personnel both Nigerians and expatriates, someone could break into the facility to connect an illegal crude tapping pipeline and successfully operated it for over 12 years before Tompolo and NNPCL’s Kyari busted it few months ago. As Fela Anikolapo Kuti would say it: “second base jaree!
Why has it become an impossible task to install well metering devices on every producing wellhead both offshore and onshore? With such initiative, although it may still be prone to manipulation, the government regulators, the NNPCL, and the Presidency where the Office of the Petroleum Minister is domiciled would be able to keep an eye on what is being pumped out of the nation’s producing well/fields on daily basis.
The bulk of the stealing and/or under-declaration happens at the batteries of floating production and storage facilities that litters the nation’s offshore-deep, ultra-deep and even shallow waters.
And either by deliberate design or outright complicity, neither the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) nor the NNPC(L) has the capability to effectively police these FPSOs facilities offshore. This is the tragedy of the situation.
Glaringly, this country has never had a committed and patriotic President/leader (Tinubu inclusive as he has shown he’s obviously part of the problem by OANDO buying over all the Nigerian Agip onshore oil and gas assets so the Italians can go fully offshore to join the ‘tea party.’ Our corrupt National Assembly members, and the not-very-clean Judiciary are all part of this tragedy. Except there is change of attitude towards Nigeria as a project by those who rule, it’s only God that can save this country and her people from this hellhole. God bless Nigeria!
(IFEANYI IZEZE: [email protected]; 234-8033043009)
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