• Saturday, July 13, 2024
businessday logo


Still on the Illegal 4km pipeline: More questions than answers

NNPCL uncovers 162 illegal pipeline connections in N/Delta

Nigeria is in a precarious situation, financially. The Federal Government claims it doesn’t have money, so it is borrowing, from all sorts of places for all sorts of reasons. Some say that the government is borrowing even to pay the salaries of federal workers.

In June, we learnt that the nation borrowed to pay the interest on the loans that it has taken. It is a difficult season. Things have never been this bad.

Today, inflation stands at over 20 percent (according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS); the exchange rate is N730 – $1 (black market rate), and over N10 trillion has been spent on subsidies in the first nine months of the year with the petrol selling at around N180/litre in many places, unemployment is hovering around the 33 percent mark with youth unemployment at 42 percent and the national debt is set to hit $100 billion. To say, Nigeria is in a precarious situation, financially, may well be an understatement.

Insecurity (read banditry and kidnapping) is at an all-time high. In addition, university students were home for almost eight months, the result of a contractual dispute between the federal government and ASUU that had only just been called off.

In the midst of all these, the discovery of the illegal 4km pipeline in the Niger Delta produced unprecedented furore. This takes the cake in insanity. How is it possible that someone can lay those pipelines without anyone in the government noticing? How are Nigerians supposed to believe the security agencies missed it?

How can the NNPC claim it is unaware? Do the pipelines have no basic pressure indicators?

Are there no systems for monitoring the pipelines, whether through drones or boots on the ground? It would have been laughable if it wasn’t too serious and depleting.

It is a sad commentary on the state of the nation. Nigeria must the laughingstock of the world.

At a time when oil-producing countries are making a killing, courtesy of the Russian war in Ukraine, Nigeria can’t even meet its OPEC quota. Think of it like this, when the country desperately needs money to stay afloat, vast amounts of crude are been stolen right under its bellies. It beggars belief. It is heart-wrenching.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL), which disclosed the existence of the illegal 4-kilometre (km) pipeline from Forcados terminal to the sea, and a loading port that had operated claimed that it had remained undetected in the last nine years.

Mele Kyari, group CEO, NNPCL, revealed this when he appeared before the Senate joint committees on petroleum (upstream and downstream), and gas. He said the pipeline was found during a clampdown on theft in the past six weeks.

In his words, “Oil theft in the country has been going on for over 22 years but the dimension and rate it assumed in recent times is unprecedented.”

Oil industry watchers have asked how the MD came about nine years tale. What proof is available that the system has been operating for that long? Or maybe the Corporation needs to tell Nigerians when it actually discovered the illegal pipeline.

So far, it’s been crickets.

Conspiracy theories insist that the NNPC is trying to deflect. They posit that one, there are other such pipelines but this one was given up to distract the people and reduce questions; two the people involve know that their time might be up if a new government comes in next year, so this is simply a housecleaning operation.

Whatever the case, it is a sight for sore eyes. It is unsustainable. As Kalu Aja, author and finance expert, revealed in a tweet, reports show that from 1999 to 2015, Nigeria’s crude oil output NEVER dropped below 2mbpd. From 2016, it dropped below 2mbpd. in fact, from 2016, in only one year did, Nigeria’s output surpass 2mbpd.

If this is the reality, rubbishes all claims by NNPCL. Nigerians deserve to know the truth.

Read also: Securing Nigeria’s pipelines will save $700m monthly — FDC

It is disheartening that while everyday Nigerians have been required to tighten their belts, some criminals among us have been reaping the common patrimony.

It is not enough to discover the illegal pipeline; the culprits must be brought to book and made to pay the full price including restitution. This is the only acceptable outcome.

Some others argue that the Labour Party Presidential Candidate’s Peter Obi comments about the government and its officials’ involvement in the stealing of Nigeria may have prompted these impromptu discoveries. According to the latest reports, 16 illegal pipeline tapping have been found so far. Who knows how many more may be awaiting discovery?

Amid the discoveries, operatives of a newly-contracted private oil pipeline surveillance team, Tantita Security Services, arrested a vessel alongside its seven-member crew on 6 October. They were arrested on the creeks of Escravos, while crude oil was being loaded illegally into a waiting ship, according to a report by Punch newspaper.

About 600 to 650 cubic metres of illegally lifted crude oil in five compartments were said to be on board the vessel with registration number L85 B9.50 as of the time of the arrest.

Wait for this. Two days later the Nigerian Navy destroyed an illegal oil bunkering vessel arrested with stolen crude oil in the creeks of the Niger Delta. News reports said that the Navy personnel set the bunkering vessel ablaze on Warri River, Delta State, at about 3pm on Monday after the ship’s captain, Temple Manasseh, confessed that the vessel was laden with crude oil.

The Navy officials who destroyed the oil vessel did not speak with journalists after the incident.

This incident is the new definition of suspicious. Where is the place of recovery? What of investigation? Several questions are begging for answers.

Who owns the oil-laden vessel? Will the perpetrators ever be brought to the book? Did anyone not think of the damage to the environment that destroying the vessel with crude would cause? Is the destruction of the vessel an attempt to resolve or derail the issues? Who is the Navy trying to protect by that action?

This is Nigeria, so we may never get answers to these questions. But one thing is clear to Nigerians, systematic and state-sanctioned theft of the country’s oil resources is ongoing and the powers that be find it convenient to turn a blind eye.

The 4Km illegal pipeline may just be the tip of the iceberg. The citizens will take the opportunity to have a say on this matter during the election. This is the only way to truly stop the rot and #TakeBackNigeria

Eromosele, a corporate communication analyst, writes from Lagos