The federal government is becoming more proactive to put an end to escalating oil theft.
It announced through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that in eight months it will be in position to checkmate the thieves.
Government hopes to achieve this by increasing drone and naval monitoring of territorial waters and working with local communities, the state oil company chief said on Tuesday.
The Niger delta has been plagued by oil theft for years that has left the region heavily polluted and prompted foreign oil companies, particularly Shell, to sell onshore assets.
According to Emmauel Ibe Kachikwu, Group Managing Director (GMD) of NNPC, We must eradicate oil theft in eight months Most of our product pipelines are ruptured and attacked frequently.
President Muhammadu Buhari has earlier informed that about 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude is stolen in Nigeria, which produces just over 2 million bpd of oil.
It is used in hundreds of illegal refineries and even for export. Gas pipelines dependent on crude flows are sometimes forced to close and are even tapped by mistake by those looking for oil, which in turn disrupts electricity production.
Meanwhile, the infrastructure delivering crude to Nigeria’s refining system became so degraded that the state oil company was forced into expensive supply contracts by sea.
“We are launching an armada of approaches, which will include the incorporation of drones to check movements of vessels within our territorial waters,” Kachikwu said.
The country has limited and poorly maintained drones. Those purchased from an Israeli firm several years ago and that might have been used in the fight against the Islamist insurgency in the northeast of the country have become grounded.
Kachikwu said the “logistical nightmares” of staff changes at the crude export terminals would also be examined and that the navy would be better equipped to run patrols in the area.
“The best security for these pipelines lies with the communities. We are trying to create enough incentives for them to see these pipelines as their own,” Kachikwu said.
Under former president Goodluck Jonathan, ex-delta militants that attacked oil installations in the early 2000s were given pipeline protection contracts after an amnesty, but theft continued to grow and spiked ahead of March’s election.
This fresh approach in the fight against the perennial problem of oil theft and pipeline vandalism appeared on the horizon with the disclosure by Kachikwu that the Corporation is working towards the deployment of drones across the nation’s territorial waters to monitor the inward and outward movement of oil bearing vessels.
In a presentation at the special conference on Security in the Gulf of Guinea organized by the Gusau Institute, Dr. Kachikwu stated that the Corporation is working on a range of far reaching options designed to end the ugly episodes of crude and petroleum products theft within the next eight months.
“ We are launching an armada of approaches which will include incorporation of drones to check movements of vessels within our territorial waters; We are looking at the current logistical nightmares of changing staffing at the loading bay of crude oil export terminals virtually every 90 days, We are trying to equip the navy sufficiently though they are very well equipped in terms of skill set but not in terms of arsenal for patrols within the maritime area.”
On the issue of pipeline protection, the GMD explained that though the Corporation is working assiduously with the law enforcement agencies to increase the presence of military personnel in the area, the ultimate security for the critical oil and gas assets lies squarely with the host communities.
“The best security for these pipelines lies with the communities. We are trying to create enough incentives for them to see these pipelines as their own.’’
Lamenting the impact of oil theft on the smooth operations of the nation’s refineries, the NNPC GMD warned that if left unchecked, the menace could invariably make it impossible for the NNPC to operate the refineries.
“Most of our product pipelines are ruptured and attacked frequently. For instance between June 2014 and June 2015, we recorded about 3, 500 to 4,000 attempts at the various products pipelines across the country. In addition to that, the pipelines that are supposed to convey crude to the refineries are perpetually hacked”, he said.
Kachikwu noted that the resort to the use of marine vessels to convey crude to the refineries is coming at heavy cost.
“What this means is that no matter what we do with the refineries today, unless that is solved, we really are going nowhere, we cannot operate the refineries.”
He explained that beyond the loss of crude and products, the incidents of oil theft have also claimed a huge number of human lives. He informed that in the last three years a total of 350 persons including NNPC staff, Police officers, Community members have been killed as a result of activities of oil thieves.
“Today, I ask all of you to join us in this campaign, it is not just a campaign for NNPC but it is a campaign for every Nigerian…. So it is war time, it is business time, it is focus time and there is a lot to do. Everybody is being called to the table and everybody is being called on the state of alert but in eight months we must be able to deliver an environment that is free from the vices of oil theft,’’ Kachikwu said.
He informed that in executing the campaign, adequate support will be sought from the International community especially from countries that have become host nations to the stolen cargoes.
Earlier Patrice Emery Trovoada, PRIME Minister of Sao Tome and Principe called on the countries in the Gulf of Guinea to forge a broad based collaboration to stem the ugly tide of insecurity on all the water ways.