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Finding solution to menace of pipeline explosion crude, oil theft

Precisely on December 5, 2019, Nigerians woke up to witness the ugly scene of another disastrous pipeline explosion ravaging Idimu, a suburb of Lagos.

Read Also: Updated: Crude oil theft remains bottleneck for Nigeria’s oil, gas companies

This is not the first time such a thing is happening in that axis but the fourth time within a space of one year.

Last year, there was fire outbreak twice in this area. In February and April last year, and this year alone, in November and December, according to the chief operating officer, Downstream, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Adetunji Adeyemi.

The NNPC described the area as a place that is very prone to fire and vandalism. It claimed it is doing everything possible to ensure  there is security and adequate maintenance in terms of pipeline integrity. “We are also appealing to the residents here, the community leaders and religious leaders to ensure that they also protect the pipelines”, Adetunji said.

Truly, the pipelines are Nigeria’s assets and we must protect  them as Nigerians. Like they say, security is for everybody, so when you see something, say something and not doing so has it own consequences on everybody.

But when we look at the situation holistically, the Nigerian landscape is replete with the devastating effect of incessant crude oil and products pipeline fire explosion with its attendant consequences that has caused economic and social dislocation to both the country and individuals.

The immediate and remote causes of oil theft and pipeline vandalism, according to the views of most stakeholders are essentially a social problem which underlying causes include: poverty in the communities, community-Industry expectation mismatch and corruption.

Others, included: ineffective  law enforcement,  poor governance, poor  prosecution of  offenders,  high  unemployment  in  the communities,  thriving  illegal oil  market involving both Nigerians and foreigners, and inadequate funding of resources to combat oil theft.

Nigeria lost as much as 22 million barrels of oil to theft in the first half of this year, a problem that is a threat to the country’s economy. The stolen oil amounts to more than 120,000 barrels per day (bpd), or roughly 6 per cent of Nigeria’s nearly 2 million bpd output.

Between 2010 and 2012, a total of 2,787 lines breaks were reported on pipelines belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), resulting in a loss of 157.81 metric tons of petroleum products worth about N12.53bilion. Pipeline along the Gombe axis recorded 850 cases and Kaduna system recorded 571 cases of pipeline vandalism. The pipeline along Warri axis recorded 548 cases vandalism while Mosimi system pipelines in Lagos recorded 463 cases and Port Harcourt recorded lesser cases with 336 points vandalized (NNPC, 2016).

Recently, the Edo State Governor and Chairman of the National Economic Council (NEC) Ad Hoc Committee on Crude Oil Theft, Prevention and Control, Godwin Obaseki, stressed the need to institute a proper governance structure for pipeline security in the Industry.

Governor Obaseki called on the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA) to work with the NNPC in identifying possible international markets and destinations of stolen Nigerian crude oil.

He said that the Industry must end the prevailing incentives that make it possible for crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism to flourish.

The governor disclosed that NEC had upgraded the Ad Hoc Committee on Crude Theft to a standing committee with mandate to provide regular updates to NEC as may be required.

All over the world, there are pipelines that are under the surface. Pipelines can be buried deep but the costs  is around four to five times what it will be to put pipeline on the surface. With that, money that could be used for other developments would be sunk into burying pipelines. This would not be too good for our development.

The effect of the activities of the pipeline vandal has far-reaching economic, social, health and environmental implications on the Nigerian people than the pecuniary gains that would be accruing to those who engage in such unwholesome activity.

Apart from the great economic loses recorded owing to the fact  that the vandals sell whatever product or crude oil  stolen at a rate that is far below the market price, the revenue realised by them is not captured by the government, the pipelines are also damaged and the government would ultimately have to spend money to repair them because either products or crude oil must flow to get to either the depots or export terminals.

The effect on land degradation and deforestation is massive as vegetations in those areas that experience oil spills may take several years of rehabilitation before they can grow again. Most vegetations in the areas affected often turn white and dry and are prone to fire should there be any spark anywhere. The situation is worse if they are close to residential areas like the one that happened recently in Lagos. The source of water in those areas are contaminated and the land also is exposed to erosion when the rains fall.

On health ground, its effect cannot be quantified as many diseases that are ravaging some of the prone areas like Niger Delta have been attributed to the effect of pipeline vandalism. The thick smoke resulting from the explosion leads to acid rain. There is also air pollution which is a major contributor to the rising case of cancer in the country. All these are enough reasons for people to desist from pipelines vandalism.

It is, therefore, heartwarming to learn that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has forged a formidable alliance with some key stakeholders in the downstream sector of the Petroleum Industry with a view to stamping out the ugly incidences of oil pipeline vandalism while ultimately sustaining the prevailing sanity in the supply and distribution of Petroleum Products across the country.

Salmon Oladiti, National Chairman of Petroleum Tanker Drivers branch of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), affirmed the commitment of his members to work with NNPC to combat the activities of oil thieves and pipeline hackers.

He said PTD prohibited its members from partaking in the illicit transport of stolen products because it views it as an act of economic sabotage.

To curb this menace, stakeholders have given clues to measures that should be put in place to include: a security architecture with single accountability for national critical infrastructure; Industry and regulatory commitment to transparent crude oil and products accounting; realistic expectation by host communities; and emplacement of sustainable social investment mechanism.

There is also the need to inculcate shared values of integrity and transparency across every level of the governance structure for pipeline security, policy refill and enforcement of legal actions on economic saboteurs. Anything short of these would make the fight against this malaise a tough battle to fight.


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