The Federal Government yesterday raised alarm over the rising rate of crude oil theft in the Niger Delta, disclosing that about $3.27 billion worth of oil had been lost to vandalism and theft in the past 14 months.
The government also said high-level cases of oil theft had become a threat to the country’s corporate and economic existence, with the industry now thinking of transporting crude oil from fields to export terminals by trucks.
In a presentation at a stakeholders’ engagement in Abuja yesterday, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, NUPRC, said the government is extremely worried about the huge loss of oil revenue to vandals.
‘Crude theft mostly from Bonny, Brass, Forcados’
Chief Executive of NUPRC, Gbenga Komolafe, who disclosed this, said much of the crude oil losses came from Bonny Terminal Network, Forcados Terminal Network and Brass Terminal Network.
He listed factors aiding the criminal activities to include economic challenges, inadequate security, poor surveillance, poor community engagements, exposed facilities and stakeholders’ compromises, stressing that due to the high level of theft, the country had been unable to meet its OPEC production quota.
Komolafe said the government was determined to end the menace, so the country could benefit from the rising price of oil and also protect the environment from oil spills.
He said: “The issue of oil theft has become a very worrisome one to the government of Nigeria and I believe to you as investors too.”
He said it was important that government and oil companies work together to resolve the issue, especially on the agreed volume of oil lost to vandals, since the issues strike at the heart of federation revenue.
“You will recall that in the last one week, we have set up a crack team to determine the accurate figure because as a government, we cannot continue to act on the basis of an abstract or inaccurate figure in dealing with an important issue as crude oil theft because the issue goes to the heart of federation revenue.
“The concern of the government is to increase our national oil production. Basically, we are an oil economy and when the upstream is sick, it affects the well being and health of the country.
“The situation happening in the upstream is getting to the level of threat to the existence and well-being of Nigeria. As responsible regulators, we are very concerned about it.
“We have been doing a lot and we are not relenting. We will do everything possible to increase oil production in a manner that will make the nation benefit from the upward swing in the international price of crude oil,” Komolafe added.
Reacting to proposals by some operators that crude oil could be transported by trucks as an alternative measure, the NUPRC boss stated: “I quite agree that alternative evacuations that are being proposed now will be just an intervention mechanism that cannot be a permanent solution to the problem we are facing.
“I will take note of that as a regulator because already, people are pressured by the challenge to look for alternative solutions. They are seeing it (trucking) as a solution but they are not having a long-term look at the effect that the criminals could equally switch their strategies (to attack the trucks).”
It’s organized crime – IOCs
In his presentation, the Chairman/Managing Director of ExxonMobil, Richard Laing, who represented the Oil Producers Trade Section, OPTS, of Lagos Chamber of Commerce, pointed out that though the issue is not new, it had grown from just oil theft to organized criminality, with the sophisticated operation.
He said: “As an industry, I know how hard my colleagues work to produce products that we need and to suffer the level of theft that we have is disheartening. But more importantly, it is a threat to investments, a threat to the health of the industry and wealth of the nation
“It is important that the stakeholders integrate their activities and their thoughts. As OPTS, we have met with a number of stakeholders over the last several months and we want to make sure that whatever we do is joined up and effective.
“The language is very important and I think we use theft rather quickly. I don’t think this is theft, this is organized criminal activity. The level of sophistication in terms of tapping into the pipelines, the distributions, efforts required to move hundreds of thousands of barrels a day isn’t some guy coming along and tapping into a pipeline and taking container crude oil. It is organized criminality.’’
82% of production was stolen in Feb
On its part, the Independent Petroleum Producers Group, IPPG, disclosed that about 82 per cent of its oil production was stolen in the month of February 2022.
Represented by the Managing Director of Waltersmith Petroman, Chikeze Nwosu, the group said independent producers are facing existential threats.
Nwosu explained that the oil theft challenge had grown from what it used to be in the past when it was just about four per cent, lamenting that it was as high as 91 per cent in December 2021.
“The TNP (Trans Niger Pipeline) is the major issue. We have seen crude theft grow from single-digit percentages to 91 per cent in December for some of the operators who produce into the TNP, 75 per cent in January and the February report we got has an average of 82 per cent,” he said.
Nwosu pointed out that the situation seemed to be getting worse, despite all efforts to curb it, and called for urgent action from the government and stakeholders.
FG reads riot act to oil thieves
At a separate on-the-spot assessment of some pipelines damaged by vandals at Ibaa community in Emeoha Local Government Area of Rivers State, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, said the Federal Government would no longer condone any form of criminality in the nation’s oil and gas facilities and installations.
He said aside from causing huge losses for the country, the criminals involved in pipeline vandalism are also destroying the livelihoods of locals and the environment.
To resolve the issue, he said: “The community must be involved; the security arm must be involved and the third arm, which is the operating public must be involved. I want to let everybody know that these criminals have their days numbered because the country has lost so much from their activities.”
Also speaking, General Irabor, who said the military will deploy a different strategy and a new drive by pursuing not only the criminals, but also their sponsors, said: “We are not only zeroing in on the criminals, but also on those who are supporting them.”
On his part, the GMD/CEO of Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPC, Mele Kyari, lamented that the scale of crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism seen now was beyond explanation, adding that all hands must be on deck to contain the spate of crude oil losses in the country.
While appreciating the current leadership of the military, Kyari expressed confidence that through a collaborative effort of government, security agencies, host communities and oil companies and deployment of the right technology, the menace would be contained.
49 illegal refineries destroyed, 70 oil thieves, vandals arrested — DHQ
At a separate forum in Abuja yesterday, the Defence Headquarters said troops of Operation Delta Safe destroyed 49 illegal refineries in intensified operations against oil thieves and other economic saboteurs in different communities, towns, villages and creeks in Ajomo Creeks, Koko town in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State, between March 10 and 24, 2022.
Director, Defence Media Operations, Major-General Benard Onyeuko, who disclosed this, said the troops also arrested 70 oil thieves and pipeline vandals, adding that illegal refineries were also destroyed in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Elele in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State and Ozoaku Local Government Area of Abia State.
“During the operations, troops also discovered and destroyed 49 illegal refineries, 275 polythene bags containing illegally refined AGO, 146 ovens, 145 receivers, four boilers, 125 metal storage tanks, eight GP tanks, 19 drums, 69 units of 50-litre jerry cans, 81 galvanized pipes, 85 dugout pits, five warehouses and pots containing illegally refined AGO.
“Cumulatively, troops within the period under review neutralized one militant, recovered 6,679,000 litres of illegally refined AGO, 4,436,000 litres of stolen crude oil, one gunboat, one BMG gun, one AK 47 rifle, five MCs, several rounds of 7.62mm special ammunition, 12 motorcycles, 20 wooden boats, 15 pumping machines, two trucks, one ford, three speedboats, five engines, one Keke, and five vehicles.
“Furthermore, 70 economic saboteurs associated with pipeline vandalism and other criminal elements were apprehended. All recovered items and apprehended criminals have been handed over to the appropriate authorities for further action.
Reps invite Sylva, Kyari, Ahmed, others over the state of refineries
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee investigating the state of refineries in the country has invited the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva and the Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Limited, Mele Kyari, to furnish it with information on the capacity of the oil facilities and ways to get them functioning.
Others invited include the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, heads of key agencies and parastatals of government, the Accountant-General of the Federation, Auditor-General of the Federation, Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation and the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission.
Also invited are the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Authority, the Port Harcourt Refining Company Limited (PHRC), the Kaduna Refining and Petrochemical Company Limited (KRPC), the Warri Refining and Petrochemical Company Limited (WRPC), National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, and Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, NEITI.
They are to meet with the committee on Thursday, March 31, 2022.
Recall that speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, had on January 2022, constituted the ad hoc committee to determine the state of the refineries in the country and ways of getting them active.
The committee was mandated to work with NNPC, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, and other relevant stakeholders.