The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), says it lost over $550million in June this year due to activities of crude oil thieves in the Niger Delta.
General Manager, Sustainable Development and Community Relations of SPDC, Dr Felix Eshfelvilla disclosed this to newsmen after visiting some of the company’s facilities in Rivers and Bayelsa States.
Dr Eshfelvilla said that an estimated quantity of 150 barrels of crude oil per day, amounting to over 5billion dollars per annual was stolen by illegal bunkerers.
He said this has impacted negatively on the economy, environmental and social lives of the communities, the states and the nation at large, adding that third party interference has also slowed down the country’s operations in the Niger Delta thereby affecting huge revenue and that of local, state and federal governments.
According to him, SPDC has adopted several strategies aimed at reducing or totally eradicating crude oil theft in the Niger Delta and appealed to the international community to assist in the efforts to combat the menace.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Navy yesterday intensified its search for four foreigners kidnapped during a deadly attack on a vessel belonging to an oil services company, the navy said.
The suspected pirates stormed the vessel belonging to the Sea Trucks Group early Saturday in the Gulf of Guinea, an area that has seen a sharp spike in the number of reported maritime attacks over the past six months.
“We have intensified our search for the kidnappers and the abducted four foreigners,” Nigerian navy spokesman, Commodore Kabir Aliyu told AFP.
Another naval officer, who declined to be named because he has no authority to speak to reporters, said that the search for the foreigners had continued in the creeks and waterways in the region.
A spokeswoman for Sea Trucks Group, which provides support vessels to oil companies operating in Nigeria, said yesterday that her company was focused on the safe release of the hostages.
“We are very focused on getting our crew back safely,” Corrie van Kessel told our correspondent on telephone.
She declined to say categorically if contacts have been established with the abductors and efforts being made to secure their freedom, saying that releasing such information “could jeopardise current efforts.”
Van Kessel confirmed that the four abducted foreigners were from Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia and Thailand.
Sea Trucks Group is heavily involved in the oil and gas sector in the Niger Delta.
The group, which also operates in Australia and East Asia, was founded as a Nigerian firm in 1977 before expanding and currently has a “corporate support office” in the Netherlands, according to its website.
Aliyu said during the attack “four expatriates are reported to have been kidnapped from the vessel; two sailors were killed.”
Aliyu said six naval personnel were stationed on board the Sea Trucks Group vessel following a security request from the company.
The gunmen also shot and wounded two others while the remaining two escaped unhurt, he said.
The motive for the attack and the identities of the gunmen are still unknown, added Aliyu.
The volatile area was for years crippled by armed insurgency, largely made up of militants who claimed the region’s prosperous oil industry was not benefiting the local population and destroying the environment.
Armed groups in the Delta were notorious for kidnapping oil workers, especially foreigners.
A 2009 amnesty deal greatly reduced the unrest, but sporadic incidents have continued to occur including robberies and, most prominently, piracy.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said in a report released last month that there had been 32 piracy incidents recorded in the Gulf of Guinea in the first half of 2012, up from the 25 attacks in 2011.
Years of unrest in the Delta had curbed oil production in Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer and the world’s eighth largest, but output has recovered since the amnesty.
On Friday, Nigeria said oil production had hit its highest level ever, reaching 2.7 million barrels per day.
In a related development, the NNPC has pledged to collaborate with other agencies in efforts to stem crude oil theft in Nigeria.
A statement issued by NNPC’s Group General Manager (Public Affairs), Mr Fidel Pepple, in Abuja yesterday said that the Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr Andrew Yakubu, made the promise.
The statement said that Yakubu, who made the pledge when members of the Inter-Agency Maritime Operation Committee paid him a courtesy visit, bemoaned the activities of unscrupulous individuals who engaged in oil theft.
It said that illegal bunkering and crude oil theft had negative impact on the economy and the environment, stressing that it should, therefore, be stamped out.
It said that the NNPC chief lamented that several thousands of barrels of crude oil were lost to illegal bunkering everyday.
“The blocking of this leakage would go a long way in efforts to improve the standard of living of Nigerians.’’
The statement also said that the Chairman of the Inter-Agency Maritime Operation Committee, Rear Admiral E. O. Ogboh said that the committee was established in June.
“He explained that it was set up to address illegal bunkering in the nation’s maritime waters,’’ it added.
The statement also quoted, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Maritime, Mr Leke Oyewole as saying: “The committee was set up to ensure adequate collaboration among all agencies of government in the nation’s maritime industry.’’
Members of the committee were drawn from the NNPC, Nigerian Navy, Air Force, Customs Service, Police, State Security Service and the Judiciary.