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A Vicious Cycle …Combating Oil Theft In Nigeria

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As far back as July, 1988, one time Minister of Petroleum, Pro. Tam David-West, in what he called ‘a family meeting’ with Journalists, said Nigeria was losing N10 million annually to oil thieves. Nearly twenty five years after, rather than abate, crude oil theft is today one of the most lucrative businesses, next only to political power and kidnapping.

Last week, the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Andrew Yakubu said Nigeria loses $12 billion to crude oil theft annually, a figure which when converted at as low a rate as N150 to a dollar, amounts to a whooping N1.8 trillion, although, Chief of Training and Operations, Defence Headquarters, Maj-Gen Lawrence Ngubane, said last week that the Joint Task Force (JTF) has been able to reduce crude oil theft from 60,000 barrels Per Day (BPD) to 23,0000bpd.

In a country where dependable statistical data management still remains a mirage, these figures can hardly be relied upon, but they nonetheless, help tell the sad story of how a national malady which years ago was a privileged trade for an influential few has become an all-comers occupation. Sadly, it now includes uniformed personnel depended upon to check the illicit trade.

The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba attested to it recently when he accused some of his men assigned to crucial sea borders of being compromised, only to aid illegal oil-theft, with the warning that anyone caught would be dealt with decisively. That would not be the first time such high ranking security chief would be sounding such warning, yet the situation remains the same.

Last week Friday, at about 5pm, Okrika bound sea passengers were shocked to their marrows to find two outboard engine boats, coated in black substance suspected to be used for oil theft, carrying armed personnel wearing Nigerian Military camouflage, openly sharing money mid-sea off the shores of the Abuloma Jetty in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State.

That was barely a day after Maj-Gen. Ngubane had warned men of the JTF in Bille, Degema Local Government Area of the state against aiding and abating oil theft, commonly called illegal bunkering.

But what is bunkering? When is it illegal? Or Legal.

The word bunkering is derived from the word ‘bunker’. According to the Collins’ Web Dictionary, ‘A bunker is a place, usually underground, that has been built with strong walls to protect it against heavy gunfire and bombing”. But the closest in meaning is a second definition which states, ‘A bunker is a container for Coal or other fuel’.

Understandably, the act of conveying products contained in such containers to a marine vessel, mid-sea is what is now re-coined as bunkering.

Bunkering, by itself was not always an illegal business, as some companies are licensed to own tank farms through which products are loaded and conveyed to large sea vessels that cannot berth in shallow rivers. Even at the Okrika Jetty, a ship as mighty as Baco-liner would have problem berthing and would have to anchor at the high seas for product purchase and loading. Bunkering is thus a major bridge.

Today, some of the same foreign vessels, owned by citizens from countries that near frequently tag Nigeria, as the most corrupt in the world, prefer to buy crude oil from illegal sources, sometimes in exchange for fire arms, at other times for peanuts. Even when it is officially loaded by say NNPC at a given jetty, officials assigned still under-quote their sales and share proceeds between Nigeria and their own pockets.

Unfortunately, such official crooks are not alone. This is why only very trusted staff are assigned roles at pump sites, as usually obtained at Police check-points, Immigration border posts and Naval Sea Control areas.

Understandably, just as some insects become more resistant, the more pesticides are used, oil theft has become a vicious cycle not limited to those who burst oil pipelines, or oil company officials who open pipe valves for thieves or uniformed men detailed to prevent the illicit trade but who end up joining the party.

Otherwise, how can a foreign ship illegally find her way into Nigeria’s sea borders, and for days, load stolen Nigerian crude, for peanuts and leave as easily as she came without the knowledge of the Nigerian Naval personnel detailed to be on guide duty?

What then is oil theft in general terms? The following categorisations may appear legitimate to many, but illegal refinery owners, today known as ‘Kpo-fire, are petty thieves, the others are armed robbers, So, when is oil said to have been stolen?

When oil blocks are shared among a cabal without recourse to the values of equity, fairness and justice. When as much as 83 per cent of oil blocks are owned by a few from the non-oil producing Northern part of Nigeria while, the rest of the forced amalgamation have barely 17 percent.

When a protest against such injustice, in course of debate on the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in the Senate, the Upper Chamber of Nigeria’s National Assembly, died as easily as it was raised because, on account of uneven numbers, illegal beneficiaries still remain judges in their own case, or in protection of their kith and kin.

Oil is said to have been stolen when oil bearing communities are denied any reward for the oil prospection and production activities in their land even if they suffer all manner of environmental degradation and denial of their traditional occupations of fishing and farming.

Oil is said to have been stolen when non-oil producing states determine what percentage must go to the oil producing states by way of derivation. When a paltry 13 percent of that is still made an issue by those who contribute little or nothing to the general pool.

Oil is said to have been stolen, when mining of countless minerals is condoned by those who should bring proceeds to the table for general use, and instead look the other way either for fear of the influential few behind the business or just to be seen to be fair to them, while all set their sights on crude oil from the Niger Delta.

Oil is said to have been stolen when the East-West road, the key gate-way that links the South-South geo-political zone to the rest of the nation, is left in a bad state for years at high risk to vehicular movement, even when Nigeria’s capital city with its mega roads was built from proceeds from the same oil from the Niger Delta.

Oil is said to have been stolen when the oil bearing states are denied control of their God-given resources, while in the days of the great groundnut pyramids, the opposite was true. It is even a bigger example of armed robbery when such beneficiaries, turn-around to say, one form is agriculture and the other, natural-gift to the entire nation.

But perhaps the biggest example of oil thieves are the NNPC and other multi-national oil firms who not only determine their own jumbo salaries, engage carpenters and brick-layers as expatriates and also under- report their daily production to a very gullible Nigerian State. Even worse is the huge surveillance contracts they award annually, ostensibly to check oil theft only to cry-wolf daily of the same problem and what Nigeria loses to that illicit trade.

Unfortunately, all these facts are known to most uniformed men regularly posted to high flash-points to prevent oil theft and so cannot live like non-Romans in Rome.

Such is the vicious cycle the Federal Government under President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to halt. And Nigerians expect government to do just that, afterall, it was part of the problems Jonathan elected to solve when he put self forward to become President.

My Agony is that those daily being arrested, and paraded as oil thieves, are the ordinary petty thieves of the illicit trade while those of the armed robber grade still determine whose right it was, is, and ever shall be, to steal the crude oil from the Niger Delta.

Isn’t there a way to directly involve the oil bearing Communities and States in the protection of oil facilities rather than letting NNPC and multi-national oil firms award surveillance contracts to themselves, using cronies who themselves become the legal thieves?

Or must we continue to do the familiar: recycle of security operatives to secure oil production sites for each to have a bite of the pie?

In a country where, a 17-year old teenager spends eight months in jail for wandering while a multi-millionaire drug baron bags 10 years in jail but serves his prison term in the comfort of his home, it will require more than cries of huge losses and repeated warnings to security personnel to check oil theft. The cleansing must start with the top.

This is because, there are so many things flawless oratory in high places can cover-up, corruption, like pregnancy is not one of them. It requires the top-down approach not the bottom-up, this time.

President Jonathan And Diezani Alison

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Wike, Pride Of Nigeria’s Democracy, NUJ Affirms

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The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has described Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, as an exhibit of pride to democracy in Nigeria.
The NUJ also noted that Wike has redefined governance through demonstration of democracy in action with his service to Rivers people.
The National leadership, the 36 State Executives, and the FCT, including members of the NUJ across the country made the assertion in Port Harcourt during the inspection tour led by the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim of both completed and ongoing projects being undertaken by the governor in the state.
The National President of the NUJ, Chief Chris Isiguzo, said the 1999 Constitution bestows on the media the responsibility to hold governments accountable to the people.
Isiguzo posited that having placed the projects side-by-side with the expectations of the populace, it was obvious that the governor’s investment in critical infrastructure would remain lifelong empowerment tools for the people.
”We were at the Mother and Child Hospital. We took time to look at the facilities there. That can easily be said to be first of its kind in the country.
”At the much-talked about Real Madrid Football Academy, where they are going to train the young ones, we saw that they have good facilities. At the moment, they have also offered admission to 140 pupils.
”That’s also to catch-them-young, and I want to believe that by the time this kind of resources is continuously invested in sports development in Nigeria, it’s just a matter of time, it will gain its pride of place in sporting world.”
On her part, the National President of Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs Ladi Bala said that the projects she had seen were entirely unique, unprecedented and very uncommon in the country.
According to Bala, the Emmanuel Chinwenwo Aguma Judges’ Quarters stand out as first of its kind in Nigeria, with its serene ambiance that would translate into enhancing the productivity of judges of Rivers origin.
”I believe that democracy is at work in Rivers State, and, for Rivers people, I want to congratulate them, and to say, this is the true reflection of what democracy should be across board.
”I want to call on other governors across the country to borrow a leaf from what the governor of Rivers State is doing. Wike is working, and we are very proud of what we have seen here”, she added.
In his reaction, the National Internal Auditor of NUJ, Muhammad Tukur, stated that Wike was a committed leader with the vision of uplifting the standard of life of his people.
Tukur, who expressed gratitude to Wike for his support to the NUJ National Conference in Port Harcourt, said that his show of love for journalists confirms his commitment to the welfare of the people.
On his part, Chairman of Oyo State Council of the NUJ, Comrade Ismail Ademola Babalola, asserted that the Mother and Child Hospital, and the Real Madrid Football Academy were part of projects Governor Wike was using to secure a productive future for the youths of the state because they meet global standard.
Also speaking, the Vice President of NUJ North Central Zone, Chief Wilson Bako, commended the quality of the various roads and flyover bridges constructed in the Port Harcourt metropolis to make the city tourists’ destination of choice.
In the same vein, the Vice Chairman of NUJ in Jigawa State, Comrade Larai Musa, said she has confirmed all that the news media had carried about Wike and his projects’ mantra, and asserted that it was leaders like him that were needed at the national level.
Also, Comrade Ikechukwu Ordu of Enugu State Council of the NUJ noted the need for other political leaders to emulate Wike in providing dividends of democracy to Rivers people and changing the fortunes of his state.
Also from the Enugu State Council of the NUJ, Comrade Ugochukwu Chukwudieke, said she was completely overwhelmed by what Wike has done in constructing the Okoro-Nu-Odo Flyover Bridge, Rumuogba Flyover Bridge, and Rebisi Flyover Bridge delivered within one year.
Chukwudieke also praised the quality of work on the Rumuola Flyover Bridge, Ogbun-nu-Abali Flyover Bridge, GRA Junction Flyover Bridge, and the Orochiri-Wurukwo flyover project at Waterlines Junction by Aba Road.

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Stop Constitution Review, CNG Tasks NASS

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The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), yesterday, called on the National Assembly to suspend the review of the 1999 Constitution, describing it as ill-timed and uncalled for, particularly in the face of the growing agitation for Nigeria’s break-up.

It also urged the National Assembly to invoke the doctrine of necessity to organize a Biafra referendum as the final step towards the separation of the Igbo from the rest of Nigeria.

This was part of the presentation which CNG made before the leadership of the National Assembly against the backdrop of the disturbances created by certain interest groups in the South-East, in the form of the agitation for a separate state of Biafra.

Briefing journalists in Abuja after the presentation, CNG Spokesman, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, noted that the Biafra agitation in the South-East had turned violent, alleging that the aim of the unrest in the region was to instigate reprisals by northerners against people from other parts of the country.

He said, “We demanded the immediate suspension of the ongoing exercise for the review of the 1999 Constitution and to concentrate on the first priority of determining who and what actually constitutes Nigeria as a nation in the present circumstance in which the Igbo, by taking up arms against the Nigerian state for the third time, have foreclosed every hope for the rest of us to continue coexisting with them as one nation.

“In order to achieve the final separation of the Igbo from the rest of Nigeria, we also demanded the NASS to organize a referendum by seeking the cover of the same Doctrine of Necessity invoked by Nigeria’s federal parliament that paved way for former President Goodluck Jonathan’s takeover by declaring the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua unfit.

“We further demanded NASS to prevail on the Federal Government of Nigeria to invite the United Nations as well as the African Union and ECOWAS, to initiate the process of self-determination to mandate the Biafrans out of the Nigerian union by leveraging on the several relevant international treaties and conventions to which Nigeria is a signatory.

“Today, everyone can see that the diabolical scheme planned and exhibited in the actions and clamours of IPOB, supported morally and politically by the vast majority of the pliant and affrighted Igbo elites, politicians, traditional rulers, business persons, and the larger population of this ethnic group has pushed Nigeria to the precipice.

“We are convinced that this renewed violent determination of the Igbo to see through the secession of the South-East from Nigeria is now real and cannot be avoided or deferred any longer without terrible consequences.

“In order to avoid such mishaps and unnecessary devastation on all sides, particularly the South-East whose leaders and agitators are now bent on driving it over the brink into a catastrophe, CNG is of the view that resort to available means of actualising the separation of the South-East from the rest of Nigeria is today a vital task that must be undertaken by all.”

Suleiman also argued that in order to prevent a descent into another civil war, and to forestall mass killings and untold sufferings, CNG has committed to the call for a referendum that will finally separate the South-East from Nigeria.

He added, “In this connection, we are hoping the NASS will come up with a framework to be agreed upon in the course of the referendum and its final implementation in the South-East or any enclave that wishes to secede from Nigeria.

All identified indigenes (Igbos) of the enclave or entity that called for secession (South-East) must leave the territory of Nigeria and assemble in their designated enclave for the purpose of the exercise.

“The outcome of the referendum shall be final, irreversible and shall not be reviewed or reconsidered for any other reasons. Citizens of the breakaway enclave shall be deprived of any automatic rights to return to the territory of the rump Nigeria, or to be admitted to live in any of its parts.

“We are aware that all this while, the North continued to bear the brunt of the violent agitations for secession with equanimity, stoical calm and resignation.

“Therefore, as the CNG recommits to the pursuit of a final constitutional separation with Biafra, we urge the North to remain the bulwark of respect, integrity, dignity, decorum, tradition, decency, morality, civilization, etiquette, good behaviour, politeness, accommodation, and all other positive traits with the assurance that the good will ultimately prevail over evil.”

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PDP’s Performance Has Diminished APC In Rivers, Wike

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike says with what his administration has achieved, and is still doing, in terms of delivery of critical infrastructure, nobody in the state needs to talk about the All Progressives Congress (APC) anymore.
The governor made the assertion at the flag-off of construction work of the Ogbum-nu-Abali/Eastern-Bypass Road project, yesterday, in Port Harcourt.
Wike explained that the previous administration politicised the reconstruction of the Ogbum-nu-Abali/Eastern-Bypass road and actually failed to accomplish it.
The governor said he has defied those political intrigues, and has genuinely interfaced with the people to understand the economic benefits a dualised road in the city centre could attract.
According to Wike, with the level of infrastructural development around Ogbum-nu-Abali, there would be a spike in the value of property and enhanced economic activities.
“I know that the people of Ogbum-nu-Abali resisted the dualisation of this road because of lack of information. When I met with the community leaders, they said look, they have houses bequeathed to them by their grandparents.
“I told them that whether they like it or not, if I don’t dualise it today, tomorrow somebody else will do it. And you don’t know who is coming.
“So, it’s better done now that I am a governor than when you don’t know who is coming. And the economic benefit of this road is too much, which you may not understand now.”
Speaking further, Wike stated that the entire Old Government Residential Area (GRA) has been given a facelift with quality road projects.
“This is the only place remaining. Old GRA cannot be like that and then we will leave this place. We have done the Rebisi flyover, the Oru-Abali flyover. There is no way this place will not be dualised at all. It’s not possible.”
Performing the flag-off, the member representing Port Harcourt Federal Constituency 1, Hon Kenneth Anayo Chikere, said the formal flag-off ceremony has ended several speculations about the possibility of executing the project.
“This day witnesses the eventual actualisation of the Ogbum-nu-Abali/Eastern Bypass Road project. Thank you governor for the Ogbum-nu-Abali/Eastern Bypass Road project!
“Thank you governor, for the Ogbum-nu-Abali internal roads, completed, commissioned and profitably in use. Thank you for being a worthy son and governor! Thank you for the exemplary leadership, the infrastructural and human development in all sectors.”
The Rivers State Commissioner for Works, Elloka Tasie-Amadi, while giving the project description said the dualisation of the Ogbum-nu-Abali Road will extend all the way to the ongoing Eastern Bypass dualisation.
“Today, Ogbum-nu-Abali Road is a 7.3m wide single carriage way, with a cross section of approximately 8.5m width inclusive of the drains on either side of the road. After reconstruction and project completion, we will have a cross section of 18.1m width on the axis extending to Eastern Bypass and 17.35m width along Ogbum-nu-Abali Road.
“This cross section is made up of 2 carriageways, each measuring 7.3m wide, both of which will be separated by a median of 1.5m width along the extension to Eastern Bypass and a median of 750cm width along Ogbum-nu-Abali Road.
It includes 1m wide drains on either side of the road, and of course, street lighting to ease movement at night as well as enhance security.
The commissioner said, the project like many others commissioned or ongoing will be built to design specifications aimed at guaranteeing minimum life-span requirement of 30 years.

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