BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
PORT HARCOURT: SHELL has decried the rising incident of crude oil theft on its facilities in the Niger Delta region, saying it could force the company to shut down operations.
Managing Director of the oil giant Mr Mutiu Sunmonu who spoke weekend in Port Harcourt said the company was losing an average of 60,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Describing this as the highest volume of crude being stolen so far within the last three years, Mr Sunmonu said they started witnessing this upsurge since January this year.
“The situation in the last few weeks is unprecedented. The volume being stolen is the highest in the last three years; over 60, 000 barrels per day from Shell alone. So, that for me is a great concern”, he said.
While appealing to the Joint Task Force to step up its fight against oil theft in the region, the Managing Director of the Anglo Dutch oil giant said there was urgent need for a concerted effort at the international and local level to fight the crime
Mr Sunmonu who did not rule out involvement of international syndicates in the crime said those behind it had started setting up tank farms, barge building yards and facilities to store the stolen crude before shipment.
“This whole crime has gotten a lot more sophisticated and you could see that the perpetrators are now setting up barge building yards, they are setting up storage facilities, they are setting up tank farms for storing the crude, prior to shipping out. So, if you look at all of these, it is very clear to me that this is not just an act by desperate individuals trying to make a living. This certainly is a well funded criminal activity, probably involving international syndicates”
Continuing, he called for concrete steps to address the worrisome situation, adding that he was deeply disturbed by the devastation on the environment arising from the activities of the oil thieves.
“…but I worry more about the devastation, the devastation for the people of Niger Delta, the destruction it will cause to the social and environmental aspect of the people of the delta and to Nigeria as a whole”
The oil giant in a statement circulated to newsmen at the end of the interaction with the Managing Director said it had to shut down production on twelve flow stations three times in February alone this year because of oil theft, adding that the situation caused deferment of production of 150 barrels on each day.
The statement said there had been increased attack on the company’s Nembe Creek Trunkline , NCTL
During an overfly Vanguard observed crude oil flowing on top of the water around the Nembe creek trunkline. Tanks used for refining some of the crude were littered around camps set up at the shore of the sea. Barges, canoes loaded with crude were visible from the height. Ironically, no security patrol around the area was noticed.