By Victor Ahiuma-Young
THE menace of pipeline vandals either in the Niger Delta region and other places where the pipeline runs across the country has been a major reason why the nation now depend on 100 percent on trucks for haulaging of petroleum products with its concomitant risks to both human and the Nigerian economy. the LagosÂ Zonal Secretary of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), in-charge of the Western states including Kwara state, Comrade Tokunbo Korodo in an interview with Sweet Crude Correspondent, Victor Ahiuma-Young, did not only allege heavy connivance with staff of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and security agents especially police with the Vandals, but disclose that members pay through their nose to secure pipelines located in the south western part of Nigeria.Excerpts:
Can you throw some light on the challenges NUPENG is faced with regarding the menace of petroleum products pipeline vandalism in the south western part of the country?
Taking aboutÂ pipeline network in Nigeria, we have what is known as system 2b. This is Mosimi. It supplies the Western part of the country depots of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). This consists of Ilorin, Ore, Ibadan, Shagamu or Mosimi itself and then back to Lagos. That is Ejigbo.Â Kaduna refinery is the one that supplies all depots in the whole Northen part of the federation. Similarly, Warri, pumps to Benin, and Port-Harcourt also pumps to Warri at times, and other part of the Eastern part, from Markudi, down to the eastern part.
Today, because of the problems of pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta , Kaduna is unable to get crude. You know that it is through either Port-Harcourt or Warri that Kaduna refinery gets crude and without crude, there is nothing for Kaduna to refine.
For the part ten years now, the entire depots in the Northern part of the country have been none functional . In Warri refinery, they are only doing skeletal jobs. For up to 8 eight years, they have not been able to pump products to Benin. Recently, they tried toÂ pump a little to Benin before the rise in agitations in that axis which hampered further supplies to Benin. The entire nation depends on system 2B, which is the Western part of the federation.
There are about five identified depots of NNPC in the area. The pipeline from Mosimi to Ore was being attacked by vandals even on daily basis. Petroleum Tankers Drivers (PTD) and its umbrella body, NUPENG and other stakeholders in the Ore depot engaged the services of private security operatives to watch over the pipeline which produced some results about two or a year ago before products were able to be pumped into the place.
Ibadan was also experiencing similar attacks before the leaders of PTD in the area secured the services of private security operatives to watch over the pipeline. They had to levy members because going to other places to lift products would not be as easy as lifting from the depot in Ibadan. It is very clear that the issue of pipeline vandalism is the greatest threat to products distribution in the country.
We pay heavily to secure pipelines
In Ejigbo, for the past eight to ten years, they have not be loading kerosine or diesel basically because of the activities of these vandals.
PTD leadership branch of NUPENG held a very crucial meeting during the regime of President Obasanjo and we identified that it was obvious that government was not willing to make the public depots function because of the alternatives from the private depots. We gathered that NNPC initially gave the contract of protecting the pipelines to the local chiefs that host the pipelines. But for close to five years, those chiefs were not paid.
So, they decided to connive with the vandals. One major concern to us in all this, is how do the vandals know when products are being pumped through the pipelines? When we investigated, it was discovered that obviously there is a collaborator from an insider in the NNPC. With all these at the back of our mind, we sought an audience with President Obasanjo which he honoured. We met with him and narrated our experiences. He was very understanding and immediately set up committee to look at the issue and come out with solutions. We served in that committee and we did a thorough job. We went round and identified all the black or trouble spots and the report was submitted to the Presidency. As I speak, nothing is heard about the report.
Because our members jobs must be protected, we decided to levy all our membersÂ N500.00 on daily basis per trip from which we hired private security operatives to watch over the pipeline in the south west. That has been responsible for sustaining the fuel we are getting in Western states. As we speak, we pay not less than One million Nine hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N1.9500.00) to private security outfits on monthly basis to secure the pipelines that run through the system 2B, which made up of the western zone.
Our members in the Northern part, wanted to try such, but without crude getting to Kaduna refinery, they is nothing they can do. These are the issue that we all need to understand clearly. Our Port-Harcourt zone also tried their best hence they are being able to lift the little they could. But all the depots within the Warri coverage areas are dormant. We want the government to tell the public andÂ the nation whether the security agencies which we pay and keep with out taxes are not able and competent to safeguard the pipelines.
It is the activities of the vandals that forced the government to abandon those depots to the advantage of the private depots. NNPC has not less 26 depots across the federation. As we speak, not more than four are functioning. What happened to the remaining 22 depots or so? The private depots do not need to use the pipeline because their trucks would park at their backyards, pump into the their tanks and move.Â If you know the kind of risk that our members are exposed to on the road because of the deplorable conditions of our roads and other things, you would be shocked. I can tell you that on daily basis, we lose our members. Any time we try to fight or agitate for government to live up to its responsibilities to us as citizens of the country, which unfortunately impacts negatively on the masses, people would rise against us and call us names. Such as saboteurs and that we are trying to truncate the democracy.
Products can’t be pumped from Mosimi to Ilorin
Lagos is blessed because it is surrounded by water. Lagos is the only receiving point for imported fuel in the country, which you are aware of. As it is, the only option available is to use trucks because if they pump or bridge through the pipeline, the pipeline will also be vandalised.
There is no gainsaying that government has obviously failed in this regard of making our pipeline to work efficiently and effectively hence they concentrated on haulaging products through trucks to the Northern part especially and other parts of the country. On daily basis that we bridge through the trucks, our members are exposed to a lot of risks. If they move at, armed robbers would hijack them, take away the truck, siphon the product and abandon the truck anywhere they like.
The government should dust out theÂ report from where it has been dumped in the presidency and implement its recommendation to ensure that our pipeline function. Rather than tanker drivers traveling long distance to Lagos, they can easily load in the closest depots. There is no way you can have uniformedÂ prices of products when people travel long distance from say Maiduguri to Lagos with the lots of risks to lift products for sale in Bornu state. From Atlas cove jetty, they pump to Mosimi. Mosimi pumps to Ibadan and Mosimi pumps to Lagos.
This is only petrol. Government is not interested in diesel and Kerosine. It is only PMS (petrol) that government imports into the country. Diesel and Kerosine have been deregulated and their importation are being done by private individuals and if they want to pump, they can only pump to Ejigbo, Mosimi. That was why I said at the beginning that the only system that is working is 2B, which is the western part. Out of the depots we have in the west, Ilorin is not functioning because of vandals. They have taken over theÂ pipeline network on that route. If they pump from Mosimi, before it gets to Oyo, it will be empty. A drop will not reach Ilorin.
The question is how do the vandals know that product has being pump? It is through insiders in NNPC who collaborate and connive with them. The last time we (PTD) went on operation, I spearheaded the operation. Around 2 AM within Abule Egba area, at Oko-Oba road, we arrested a senior Police officer, An Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP)Â with two star by name Solanke, and we handed him over to the Police. This was over a year ago. Immediately he was arrested, I called the then Commissioner of Police and he said he had been briefed as well, that his men were coming over. He was arrested and taken to Oko-Oba Police station. Incidentally, he was attached to Oko-Oba police station. Till today, the case did not see the light of day.
The Commissioner of Police that performed creditably well as far as the issue of pipeline vandalism is concerned, was the former Commissioner of Police in Ogun state, Mr. Apapa. When the vandals were terrorising the Shagamu area and Ijebu, the man gave us enough policemen to patrol the areas and we arrested a lot of uniformed men.
The Commissioner changed in the area commander more than two times because of the issue before peace was restored to those areas. At the entrance of where they vandalised, Policemen were mounting check-point to scare away people so that they would not know that something was going on and at the same time protecting the vandals. They was a time we engaged them.
It was fire for fire. The Commissioner apprehended them and took them to court in Abuja. After about three months, those policemen and their civilian accomplices came back because they were charged with bailable offences. When they came back, they started threatening our lives and properties. We had no other choice than to step aside. That was why we decided to engage the services of private security outfits. We had to levy our selves N500 each per trip and per truck in order tom pay them. It is because of this private security outfits that the issue of pipeline vandals has been brought to the barest minimum in the South west and which has made product distribution steady.
25 Vandals arrested
Not less than 25 vandals have been arrested since we engaged the services of this private security outfits. During the work of the Committee that I spoke about earlier during the government of Obasanjo, over 100 trucks were seized as the committee was going round. The trucks wereÂ parked at Commissioner of Police office at Ilewu-Eran Police Station in Ogun state, while some belonging to stubborn drivers were burnt at the spot. If you go Ilewu-Eran, almost all the trucks have been released.
The vandals were using free money they were getting from vandalism to buy trucks on their own. So, it was even difficult to identify or apprehend them. It was when they came to the depot to load that we discovered some of them and we used union power to deal with them.
The trucks were bought purposely for vandalism. If any of their trucks is burnt, they care less because they believe that a successful operation can buy more trucks to replace the one burnt. But those who spent their hard earned money to buy a truck, if such a truck is burnt because of vandalism, he would not try it next time. In NUPENG, we have placed embargo that anybody identified as vandals or associating with them would not participate in our elections. I can tell you that there is discipline in Western part because of our leadership and we have vowed to expose anybody identified to be vandal or collaborator no matter how highly placed.
They way we are doing in Western part, if other parts are doing the same thing, the issue of vandals and vandalism would be reduced drastically if not eliminated. However, the most urgent step in addressing the matter is that the issue of Niger Delta crisis must be quickly and effectively resolved so that Kaduna refinery and others can function. We about eight depots in the northern part. If Kaduna refinery begins to work, these depots would also come back to life. If those depots are functioning, there would not be need for them to drive to Lagos to lift products