By Victor AHIUMA-YOUNG
ORGANISED labour has called on the National Assembly to use the opportunity provided by the ongoing process of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, to order the genetic fingerprinting of Nigeria‚Äôs Petroleum assets to check the massive theft of the nation‚Äôs crude oil, warning that Nigeria is bleeding and needs help.
National Industrial Relations Officer of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, Chika Onuegbu, argued that the increase in oil theft in Nigeria is directly proportional to the level of corruption in the country.
Onuegbu who is also the Rivers State Chairman of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, spoke on ‚ÄúEscalating crude theft and Petroleum Industry Bill: Examining the operability of community surveillance of oil installation presented at conference on host communities and the PIB‚Äù.
According to him: The increase in oil theft in Nigeria is directly proportional to the level of corruption in Nigeria. Corruption weakens the institutions of governance and makes it difficult for government officials to do their job. It also creates a culture of greed that destroys everything on its way.
The inability of the government of Nigeria and its security agencies to fight the menace of oil theft can be directly linked to the unprecedented level of corruption in Nigeria. The proceeds of oil theft are shared between the oil thieves and their government and security collaborators.
That is why nothing concrete is done about oil theft in Nigeria. Painfully, the situation will not change until government shows the political will to fight corruption by severely punishing corrupt government officials and security agents.
The National Assembly should use the opportunity of the PIB to order the Genetic fingerprinting of Nigeria‚Äôs Petroleum assets so as to stop the big oil thieves. This will enable the identification of stolen crude oil from Nigeria in the international market.
The NNPC and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources have in the past few days released figures of the huge resources lost to these practices both in volume and in value.¬† It is however estimated that Nigeria is currently losing some 250,000 barrels of oil per day to oil thieves.
Most of these thefts are carried out by the outright sabotage of oil facilities especially the Pipelines and the flow stations from where products are taken for sale. Essentially Nigeria loses between U$6billion to U$12billion per annum.‚Äù
‚ÄúThese estimates are for just crude loss and nothing has been said about the loss from refined products when we consider the numerous blow outs and the Arepo persistent incident, including the value of the equipment and lives lost in the process.
The NNPC/Shell Petroleum Development Company Joint Venture, recently declared a force majeure on Bonny Crude, due to persistent crude oil theft, resulting in the shutting in of 150,000bpd. Just across the 97-kilometre Nembe Creek Trunk line, 53 break points were discovered.
Also, Agip has suspended crude oil production activity in Bayelsa state where 60% of its production of about 90,000 kbpd is stolen. By government‚Äôs own admission, what is lost to crude oil theft alone is about 10% of Nigeria‚Äôs total crude oil production of about 2.5million barrels per day. This is almost two and a half times the total production of our neighbour, Ghana.‚Äù
Onuegbu said ‚ÄúThis level of oil theft is a very serious threat to our national security and our democracy, as people who are making such humongous amount of money can destabilize both our democracy and our National security. The experience of Colombia, Afghanistan and other countries, where criminal gangs have established organizations, should prompt the federal and state governments to act very fast, before the situation gets out of hand.
Also, the painful damage to the environment due to crude oil vandalism and oil theft cannot be over-emphasised. The eco-system of the Niger Delta has been greatly violated and unfortunately, this aspect of the cost of crude oil theft has not been given sufficient attention.
Although the Section 8 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act, provides for life imprisonment for anyone stealing crude oil or petroleum products or vandalizing the pipelines, hardly is anyone caught or prosecuted. It is obvious the oil thieves have powerful allies in government.‚Äù
‚ÄúIt is also clear that the security agencies are complicit in this menace of our national resource, and government needs to step up to the plate and summon the required will to fight this patent threat to our nation. The truth is that the continued unabated theft of crude oil will obviously lead to divestment by the oil and gas companies, and the attendant socio-economic crises and significant significant job losses as a result.