By Anthony Isaac
With Nigeria reported to have lost about $41.9 billion through oil theft and pipeline vandalism in ten years, Governor Godwin Obaseki has said no one has been held accountable for the huge loss of revenue and environmental degradation.
Obaseki who chairs a committee set up by the National Economic Council (NEC) to find a lasting solution to the challenge of oil theft in Nigeria, spoke in Abuja on Tuesday at the inaugural policy dialogue held by Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).
He revealed that in the first six months of this year, 22 million barrels of oil valued at $1.35 billion was lost to thieves.
He pointed out that most of the crude oil losses were recorded on trunk lines operated by companies which own production fields and the pipelines, a situation he described as disturbing.
While noting that trunk lines outsourced to third parties recorded the least breeches, he called on the Federal Government to temporary take over the trunk lines operated by International Oil companies (IOCs).
He explained: “Some of our key findings, for the first half of this year, we lost 22.6 million barrels of crude oil at an estimated cost of about $1.3 billion but these losses occurred specifically in the Nembe trunk line, we lost 9.2 million barrels; in the Trans Niger pipeline we lost 8.6 million barrels; and in the Trans Forcados pipeline 3.9 barrels”.
He continued: “What is interesting is that the largest losses came from lines that were owned and operated by the same companies who explored, who had production and owned the transportation of the lines recorded those losses.
“We also noticed that the lines that were outsourced to third parties recorded the least losses so there is a very interesting correlation between the ownership production into the lines and the level of losses on those lines”.
He noted the committee’s review of the submissions made by those in-charge of tackling the problem showed that “there is a clear absence of proper governance for the pipelines such that no one is held accountable when there is a breech on these lines. It is bad enough to lose products but these products are co-owned by both the operators and government
“When breeches are reported, when products are lost, we just deal with the financial losses to the operators what happens to government? Nobody is ever held accountable; nobody is brought to order” he lamented.
The governor therefore called for special training for judges and the setting up of special courts to try oil thieves and pipeline vandals.
“We also observed that there is very slow inadequate prosecution of culprits when people are arrested. Looking through the law we couldn’t find any concrete evidence of people who were caught, prosecuted and convicted on the crime of stealing crude product”.
In his goodwill message, the Minister of State Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva said oil theft was a major issue in the country that requires collaborative effort to check
Represented by his Special Adviser on Niger Delta, Mr. Felix Bobnabena, the minister noted that oil thieves “using sophisticated technology and logistics illegally tap into oil and gas assets in the Niger Delta, on behalf of and in collaboration with network of unpatriotic persons, who then sell these stolen products at the local, regional and international markets”.
Sylva lamented that oil theft challenges are happening amid operating difficulties including high cost of production, assets divestment by some companies, ongoing work on PIB and discovery of shale oil in America.
He reiterated Federal Government’s commitment to end incidences of oil theft in the country, saying government would continue to review current effort to tackle the problem.
On his part, the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mallam Mele Kyari said the high spate oil theft in the country is a threat to national economy given the critical role revenues from the oil and gas sector play in the country.
Kyari who was represented at the event by the Chief Operating Officer, Upstream, Mr. Roland Ewubare disclosed that between 2001 and 2017, NNPC recorded 45,374 breeches on its pipelines.
He said: “NNPC as a player in the downstream sector has felt direct brunt of the attacks on our facilities and assets. Between 2001 and 2019, we recorded a total of 45,347 pipeline breaks and breeches on our downstream pipeline network.
“If you do the math it comes to about an average of seven incidences on a daily basis”, he added.
While noting that the challenges are not insurmountable, he called for effective framework of collaboration and partnership between governments and communities.
Kyari added that operators have tried to solve the problem by awarding surveillance contracts to communities, and also by deploying technologies to check the problem.
In his welcome address, the representative of acting Chairman of NEITI board, Alhaji Gana Latinwa said the policy dialogue was organized to find a lasting solution to the challenge of oil theft in the country.
He said the huge amount of money lost to oil thieves could be deployed into providing social infrastructure for the country.
In his presentation, the Executive Secretary of NEITI, Mr. Waziri Adio admitted that while the sheer scale of pipeline network in the country presented huge surveillance challenge, he said the deploying latest technology could help Nigeria overcome the challenge.