By Olayinka Ajayi
Following reports of incessant vandalisation of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC Pipelines which cost the country huge loss of lives and properties, Saturday Vanguard took a journey to a creek in 7thAvenue, FESTAC Town, Lagos where five of the culprits were apprehended by security agents.
A chat with some of the farmers that were affected by the oil spillage in FESTAC Town who preferred being anonymous, revealed that the oil spillage had destroyed virtually all their farm produce and killed all the fishes in the river.
“We have been farming here since 1980s and 90s and it did not occur to us that there were NNPC pipelines beneath the ground. Our farm produce during the 2004 and 2005 seasons were fantastic,” she disclosed.
“But things started taking another turn in December 2, 2006 when we noticed oil spillage on the water and in our farmland that caught fire, killed one of us on a canoe who was conveying her farm produce, burning her beyond recognition with the man paddling the canoe,” she recalled.
Saturday Vanguard however went round the creek to get an aerial view of the location. Investigation revealed the area got burnt beyond imagination and it seriously affected the plants and fishes. Also a church building close to the creek was affected.
Speaking also with this reporter; a fisherman at the location however commented on the shortage caused by the oil spillage on his business as a fisherman. “I bought an instrument for fishing amounting to N50, 000 but ever since 2006 inferno, I have not made a profit of N20, 00.
I used to earn N20,000 daily but now, I hardly make N500 daily. Even when I am privileged to catch small fishes, after cooking, these will have the taste of fuel in them.” He further stated that those involved in the act are not lowly placed Nigerians who are looking for a daily bread. “Hungry people like you and I can never know where these pipelines are buried not to talk of vandalising them. It is those that have worked with NNPC that know where pipelines are,” he affirmed.
It was however observed that the management of the NNPC has mobilized the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police and the Nigerian Civil Defence Corp to the NNPC pipeline areas as anti-vandal squad to watch over these sensitive spots in case of unscrupulous acts by these foes.
All efforts to speak with the anti-vandalism operatives to share their knowledge on how these vandals operate in the creek proved abortive as they claim they were not competent to talk with the press. However Saturday Vanguard saw two canoe boats that were impounded by the NNPC anti-vandalism squad and about four 50 litres gallons.
According to oil company report, over 5,000 kilometres network of pipelines are continually vandalised and about 250,000 barrels of crude stolen daily for sale on local and international black markets, reportedly costing the country over $6bn to $12bn annually. From 2002 to 2011, records showed 18,667 incidents of vandalisation occurred.
From 40 recorded cases of vandalisation in 2002, Mosimi’s figures now run close to those of Warri in the Niger-Delta, surpassing Warri in 2007, 2009 and 2010.For every week when a major pipeline artery that serves Mosimi area is broken into, the country loses $3.7m, and so the NNPC has decided to invest resources and bury the pipelines deeper.
In about six years, the Gombe area, which covers central and North-eastern Nigeria account for 16 percent of all recorded acts of pipeline vandalisation from 2002-2011.
From 20 cases in 2005, Gombe’s pipeline vandals put in enough effort to best figures from the notorious Port Harcourt region by 2011.
A look at current development showed this disturbing trend is continuing. Because the host communities are already awash with ethno-religious crisis, Gombe and Kaduna need to make a stronger impact on Nigeria’s agenda before they tow the self-destructive line of the Niger-Delta. The consequences of an environmental degradation that are hallmarks of pipeline vandalism to the North are unimaginable.
So going back to the original question is whether the Niger-Delta region taking a backseat in pipeline vandalisation? Not as far as we know, because the NNPC has not released any such detailed figures since 2011.