Oil theft is not new to this country because it has been with Nigeria for many decades. What is however new in this illegal but thriving ‚Äúbusiness‚Äù is the dimension it has taken in recent time as the volume of crude oil being stolen is increasing on daily basis.
In January 2012, the quantity of stolen oil was 150,000 barrels per day (bpd) but today, the volume of stolen oil has skyrocketed to an alarming proportion of 400,000 bpd. These 400,000 barrels of oil that is being lost to thieves daily, equals the combined total oil production of Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.¬† In April this year, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) records revealed that the country would lose a staggering N764 billion, if oil theft was not checkmated. Also, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) in June said the country might lose N900 billion this year, to the activities of oil thieves, if stern measures were not taken. The National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association (PENGASSAN) under the umbrella of NUPENGASSAN, bemoaned the loss of over $6 billion to oil theft and N165 billion to the theft of refined petroleum products. These are startling revelations because oil is the major revenue earner in this country.
A senior military officer attached to the Joint Task Force (JTF) who was recently transferred from Delta State to Rivers State has accused politicians and monarchs as those responsible for oil theft in the Niger Delta region. He said, ‚ÄúI have discovered that traditional rulers and top politicians in the region would not want oil theft to end. This is because they make good money from the business. They even finance some of the operations‚Äù. He went further, ‚ÄúApart from financing, one out of five oil thieves arrested by JTF must be a relative or son to one traditional ruler or an influential person of that particular state. This may sound like a typical tale by moonlight stuff, but that is the hard fact‚Äù.
It is worrisome to be hearing of oil theft in Nigeria with oil pipelines surveillance contracts awarded to ex-Niger Delta militant leaders, and the security operations of the Nigerian Navy and the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta region. The total contract sum awarded to ex-militant leaders to protect the oil pipelines amounted to N5.6 billion. Ateke Tom, Alhaji Asari Dokubo, Prince Ipalibo Gagogo Farah and Egbiri Papa, got N2 billion contract to provide surveillance for the Rivers pipelines. Oil Facilities Surveillance Limited (OFSL), which belongs to ex-militant, Chief Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo), got the biggest contract to secure the Delta State end of the pipelines at the cost of N3.6 billion. Mr. Victor Ebikabowei (aka Boyloaf), got a N580 million contract to safeguard the pipelines in the Bayelsa State axis. With these measures put in place, why do oil thieves still operate with ease without being apprehended? What are the Joint Task Force, the Nigerian Army, Navy and other security agents that are dominant in the Niger Delta doing to contain the unwholesome activities of oil thieves in the region? With the persistent stealing of oil in the Niger Delta, is there any justification for the Federal Government to continue to maintain the JTF at the cost of N200 million daily?
We believe the JTF and other security agents that operate in the Niger Delta cannot exonerate themselves from this ‚Äòbusiness‚Äô of oil thievery. This is so because evidence abounds about the active involvement of JTF, Nigerian Army and Navy in the stealing of the country‚Äôs oil. In 2009, Wikileaks quoted a youth leader in the Niger Delta, Dimietri Kemedi who said, ‚ÄúThe military wants to remain in the Niger Delta because they profit enormously from the money charged for escorting illegally bunkered crude and from money extorted in the name of security‚Äù. In like manner, Omolubi Nuwuwumi, a member of the Waterways Security Committee in the Niger Delta, indicted the army when he told Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN) that ‚ÄúThe soldiers are deeply involved. There is no bunkering activity that is taking place in the Niger Delta that the military is not involved‚Äù.
We recommend seriously that the pipelines surveillance contracts awarded to ex-militant leaders be revoked immediately because they are not doing the job for which they got the contracts. The Joint Task Force should be disbanded without further delay because militancy in the Niger Delta which precipitated its establishment has stopped due to the amnesty programme. The multinational oil companies should engage in soul searching because they are also deeply enmeshed in the illegal oil business. The Federal Government cannot feign ignorance of those perpetrating this menace, rather it should muster the political will and deal with the culprits mercilessly because there is no other oil producing nation where oil theft is prevalent as Nigeria. The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) should be adequately equipped so it can exercise its function optimally.