“Conspiracy of silence in crude oil theft” – Report

Alleged involvement of IOCs, NOCs, foreign ship owners, security agents

The rate of pipeline vandalisation, crude oil theft, sea robbery and other maritime illegalities within Nigeria’s backwaters has taken a worrisome dimension in recent times, as shown by Nigeria’s oil regulator report.

In a stark revelation on the impact of oil thefts on the nation’s economy, the report stated that the country lost 141 million barrels of crude oil, an equivalent of $1bn worth of revenue in the first quarter of 2022.

However, there are starling discoveries on why crude oil theft and its attendant environmental pollution may linger, owing to deliberate attempt by some International Oil Companies (IOCs) and National Oil Companies, (NOCs) to allow this ugly trend continue especially, in the Niger Delta region of the country.

In an operational tour of the region with the Nigerian Navy, abandoned well heads owned by the IOCs and NOCs were seen scattered all over the vast river in Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta States. These wellheads, which ought to have been sealed whenever they are considered of no economic value by these IOCs and NOCs, serve as national cake to oil thieves who fix underground pipes into them, to siphon crude to their respective cooking camps, from where they are illegally refined.

There are reportedly over 3,000 creeks in the Niger Delta region where illegal refining of crude oil takes place. The perennial economic sabotage of oil theft has contributed negatively to environmental pollution and health hazard in the region. However plans are reportedly on the way for the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, (NNPC) to partner with the Nigerian Navy by providing a large storage facility where recovered crude oil will be stored.

There is also the challenge of the vastness of the operating theatre and limited platforms to patrol the terrains. To address this, the Navy in the region applied the use of drones to survey the terrain as well as the deployment of a helicopter by the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, to complement the efforts of locating illegal sites before their personnel move in.

There is, therefore, the need for the Federal Government to have the political will to rise up to the challenge, if the recent call by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawal, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on it to halt the social malaise and arrest crude oil thieves is anything to go by.

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