The spokesman for the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the Niger Delta region, Lt. Colonel Onyema Nwachukwu on Tuesday May 9 2012 in Rivers State disclosed that the JTF arrested 21 international oil thieves and five Nigerians on board vessels MT Ani and MT Oso with 650,000 metric tons capacity of crude oil. The 21 non-Nigerians were Ghanaians. According to reports, the arrest was made after a tip-off to the Joint Task Force from a â€śreliable source.â€ť The JTF destroyed (scuttled) the vessels.
Few weeks ago, the international media reported that crude oil and refined petroleum products smuggling was on the ascendency in the Gulf of Guinea especially on the West African coast between Nigeria and Ghana.
Earlier in the year, the Chief Executive of Shell, Peter Voser, had complained of the increase in oil theft in the country, pointing out that over 150,000 barrels of oil was being stolen in the country every day from his companyâ€™s facilities.
Various informed sources have estimated that on the average, 450, 000 barrels volume of crude is oil stolen from Nigeria every day. This would translate to about $19.74 billion using a conservative spot market average price of $120 per barrel for the nationâ€™s premium crude grade- Bonny Light. This is a very conservative estimate of the magnitude of lost revenue for the Nigerian treasury every year due to irresponsible governments that have successively ruled this country. The story: Massive stealing of crude oil from producing companiesâ€™ facilities especially flow-lines and wellheads in the onshore and near-shore Niger Delta including the Ondo axis has terribly increased despite the perceived success of the Federal Governmentâ€™s Amnesty Programme and a near-zero incidence of violence by militants in the area.
How come that a responsible government could just fold its hands and literally supervise such huge sums of money go down the drain?
Federal Governmentâ€™s deliberate indifference to tackle the problem which out rightly falls within the purview of financial crime and crime against humanity as it imparts indirectly on the lives of the already battered Nigerian masses also called to question its sincerity and our seriousness as a nation.
Letâ€™s do some calculations: One metric ton of crude oil (Bonny Light) contains on the average about 7.2 barrels of oil. So 650, 000 would amount to slightly over 4.6 million barrels of crude oil. Then at $120 per barrel conservative average for the spot market price, this volume would yield about $554 million for the oil thieves.
Is it not shameful that this crime goes on everyday even when we have the Navy, Marine Police, JTF, SSS and now, the Tompolo Arrangement? It is becoming obvious that those who described the Governmentâ€™s indifference as suspicious may not be far from the truth. If not, how do you explain this shameful situation? Who are these people (illegal bunkerers) and who are they working for? Every tanker, boat or barge is well registered somewhere in either in Nigeria or any other country. So who owns these vehicles and the village-sized oil receptor marine vessels/tankers that receive Nigeriaâ€™s stolen crude oil farther offshore from our coastlines?
Does it mean the security agencies donâ€™t interrogate those arrested if for nothing, to gather intelligence to help unravel the real culprits behind this illicit business? And then why hurry to scuttle the vessels when we have not ascertained ownership and shipyards where they were built? Questions! Questions! Questions!
The U.S. diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks had earlier warned that â€śno other major oil-producing country loses as much revenue from illicit oil bunkering as Nigeria, largely because the political elite and militants (oil thieves) profit from such operations.â€ť Do we need a leaked U.S cable to know or rather tell ourselves the truth that illegal bunkering in Nigeria, represents significant economic activity with serious ramifications for the nationâ€™s economy, security, and even our democracy not to mention its adverse, most times irreversible, impacts on the environment? It is a very stupid argument to blame the difficult terrain of the Niger Delta region for the obvious failure of the security agencies to police and protect oil facilities. If the creeks are difficult to police, what of the inland NNPC petroleum products pipeline routes? Are we not recording the same level of stealing and vandalisation of flowlines?
Nigeriaâ€™s 21 PPMC depots nationwide has more than adequate capacity, excluding holding capacities at the refineries, to provide products sufficiency of up to 40 days for petrol, 65 days for kerosene and 50 days for diesel, the activities of the pipeline vandals have made it impossible for the facilities to function at full capacity. Available record shows that the nation recorded over 16,083 pipeline breaks within the last six years alone. While 398 of the pipeline breaks representing 2.4 per cent were due to ruptures, the activities of vandals accounted for 15,685 breaks which translated to about 97.5 per cent of the total number of reported cases.
The System 2E/2EX, which conveys products from the Port Harcourt Refinery to Aba â€“ Enugu â€“ Makurdi depots onwards to Yola â€“ Enugu â€“ Auchi, Barkindo continues to be the haven of pipeline vandalism in the country, particularly the Port Harcourt Aba/Isiala-Ngwa axis. In all, 8,105 breaks were recorded along the system 2E within the period representing about 50.3 per cent of the total number of petroleum products pipeline breaks in the country. Within the same period, records show the NNPC suffered N78.15 billion in product losses and pipeline repairs.
The System 2A product pipeline route which conveys products from Warri â€“ Benin â€“ Suleja/Ore depots ranks second on the scale of pipeline break points with 3,259 cases representing about 20.2 per cent of the total volume of products pipeline breaks in Nigeria. The figure also came with a loss of over N20.39 billion in products and pipeline repairs. The System 2B which carries products from the Atlas Cove-Mosimi â€“ Satelite â€“ Ibadan â€“ Ilorin depots recorded 2,440 breaks leading to a loss of over N73.6 billion in products and pipeline repairs.
How long can we continue like this as a nation of irresponsibilities? It is clear that the Nigerian government has misplaced her priorities and failed every tests of responsible leadership. This is not a Jonathan issue at all because the present government came to see it like that though it has equally failed woefully in even making any tangible attempt to correct this misnomer called crude oil stealing. When will our government wake up to say enough is enough?
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