Crude Theft, A Rape On Nigeria’s Economy

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It is mostly referred to as oil bunkering while at other times the adjective “illegal” is added to make it explicit. But what aptly describes this act is “Theft” though still on a mild note considering how dastardly the act is.

Crude oil theft in Nigeria has been on the increase as it is estimated to have caused the country to lose about $7 billion (N1.13 trillion) annually. An average of about 150,000 barrels of crude oil per day is said to be stolen through pipelines hacking at different locations and varying sizes of ships are used to convey it to international market and sold there at a rather cheaper rate.

Journalists were earlier this year taken on a helicopter overfly across the Tora Mainfold, Santa Barbara River, SEGO Bille, Cawthorne Channel and Alakiri all in Rivers and Bayelsa States to confirm the thriving crude oil theft activities taking place at these locations.

“It is difficult to sustain production in the circumstances as we to have to shut down when a facility trips and fix the cause before restart. This happened three times just between the 26th and 30th of January”, an operator of the line explained to newsmen during the overfly.

Buttressing the number of barrels lost to these organised criminals, Shell’s Executive Vice President, Sub-Saharan Africa, Ian Craig told his audience during a technical session at the last Nigerian Oil and Gas Conference (NOG) that this incidence is at present costing Nigeria about 150,000 barrels of crude oil daily. This calls for concern as the neighbouring Ghana with its 120,000 barrels daily per day is making robust plans towards national development with enthusiasm while Nigeria is losing well over 120,000 barrels to oil thieves and no drastic action is taken.

In the same vein, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, had at a stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos raised an alarm saying about $5 billion (N810 billion) was spent in the last one year on pipeline repairs culminating to about $12 billion (N1.9 trillion) lost to oil thieves. A whooping amount such as this would have gone along way to address the pressing infrastructural development challenges that are affecting the growth of the economy if the menace is given the required attention.

It was reported recently that over 200 vessels were transacting illegal business on our territorial waters.

According to a top security official the report said these 200 vessels engaged in oil bunkering, illegal fishing, piracy and sea robbery among other vices.

And of course this nefarious activities are perpetrated by some unscrupulous Nigerians in connivance with some foreigners who infiltrate our territorial water ways.

In this colossal loss, the worst hit among the multinationals operating in the country is Shell, the nation’s largest upstream operator. The firm’s footprints traverse all parts of the Niger Delta region being the first oil major to begin exploration and exploitation of crude in the region.

Addressing media Executives in Port Harcourt Shell’s manager, Government & Community Relations, Fufeyin Funkakpo explained that the firm’s operations were divided into two regions; East and West using a river in the middle to dissect the operational regions.

According to Funkakpo the first is the Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP) which begins from Bonny Island cutting across Rumuekpe, Bayelsa, Egbema, Ebubu to Ogoni areas to Bomu and back to Bonny like a loop.

The second, he explained further is the Nembe Creek Coastal Trunkline (NCTL) that connects the flow stations in the Nembe areas through the famous Cawthorne Channel and ends in Bonny. The crude oil that accounts for 95 per cent of foreign earning which sustains 80 per cent of the national budget is mostly carried by the two pipelines.

These pipelines are regarded as the nation’s economic arteries as they help Nigeria to generate a GDP of $415 billion positioning it as the world’s 31st largest economy.

The nation’s foreign reserves which grew to $36 billion in the past year is attributed to these pipelines. This two livewires of  the nation’s economy are the ones that are constantly under the attacks of oil thieves and whenever this rape was brought before the public domain government seems to turn deaf ear to it.

It is gathered that it has taken numerous steps to save these economic livewires of the country including the decision of the federal government to set up the JTF to the firm’s mulling the idea of technical solutions through pipeline alerts.

This, however, seems not to have yielded the desired fruits, as the Anglo-Datuch group, said last week that it may not meet the contractual obligations on certain exports from Nigeria because of theft and damage to key pipelines in the Niger Delta region.

Shell’s Nigerian joint venture (SPDCJV) declared force majeure on Bonny and forecados according to a statement by the company.

“Bonny loadings are affected as a result of production deferment caused by the fire incident on bunkering ship on the Bomu – Bonny Trunkline and production deferment from a third party producer because of flooding”, the statement said.

The firm noted that export from forcados were affected by damage caused by suspected bunkering on the trans forcados pipeline and the Brass creek trunkline.

Beside illegal bunkering, there is the official theft where it is alleged that Expert clearance Permit are fabricated.

According to a report, crude oil worth $1.6 billion with fabricated Export Clearance Permit was reported to be allegedly exported by the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC).

A letter to the President which was attributed to Dr. Olusegun Aganga said a forged crude oil and gas Export Clearance Permit, No: CO/28/Vol.V111/09 that was purportedly issued by the Federal Ministry of trade and Investment to NNPC for shipment of 24 million barrels of crude oil and gas in the third quarter (July to September) 2012 was discovered.

The Minister explained that the matter was officially reported to the office of the Economic and Financial crimes commission (EFCC) for investigation and it was revealed during investigation that one of the permits was forged as it was not issued from his office and did not bear the security features that were built into the original permit forms.

Although, the management of NNPC dissociated itself from the allegation and described it as false and baseless.

NNPC said in a statement signed by the acting Group General Manager Public Affairs of the Corporation, Mr. Fidel Pepple, that all crude oil and gas exports by it follow a rigid and established guideline.

“We have always and continued to follow existing requirements for exporting crude oil and gas from the country. The process is complex and involves the Ministry of trade and Investment, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the DPR, and the Nigerian Customs Service”, Pepple noted.

Also worrisome is the high level of frauds going on in the oil and gas industry.

A recent report by the Petroleum Revenue Special Task Force headed by Nuhu Ribadu revealed that Nigeria has lost out on tens of billions of dollars in oil and gas revenues over the last decades from cut price deals struck between multi-national oil companies and government officials.

The committee which was set up by the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke in a confidential 146 – page report provided new revelation on the long history of corruption in the industry and highlighted that ; “Nigeria loses out on $29 bn on cut-price gas deals; state-oil company sells itself cheap oil and gas; oil ministers hand out discretionary oil licences; hundreds of millions in missing bonuses, royalties; traders buy crude oil without formal contracts.”

The report concluded that oil majors, Shell, Total and Eni made bumper profits from cut-price gas, while Nigerian oil Ministers handed out licences at their own discretion. This, while not illegal, did not follow best practice of using open bids.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in signature bonuses on those deals were also missing, the report said.