By Jimitota ONOYUME
OIL theft is not new in the Niger Delta, but its rising index in recent times is constituting serious worries to government, security agencies and other stakeholders in the oil and gas business in the country.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lieut. Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, met with his top officers in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, to critically look at how to nip the crime effectively and tackle the problem. Ihejirika told SWEETCRUDE before the meeting that he was in the state to, among other things, discuss with his men on how best they could achieve concrete success in the anti bunkering crusade.
The Managing Director of Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC and Country Chair of Shell Companies in Nigeria, Mr Mutiu Sunmonu, has consistently lamented the negative impact of oil theft on the nation’s economy. At an interactive session with media in Port Harcourt, he said oil theft was becoming a threat to the nation’s economy.
He said those behind the illicit act, had set up tank farms and other storage facilities for their trade. Some, according to him, had also gone ahead to locally refine the product which they push into markets in the region.
He further expressed worries with the impact of their activities on the environment, saying it was constituting a major pollution problem.
Sunmonu said the federal government had projected an increase in oil production to about four  million barrels per day, with a reserve of about 40 billion barrels, wondering how realizable the projection is with the rising cases of crude oil theft in the region.
Shell’s Nembe Creek Trunk line, NCTL, was shut down for about three months this year because oil thieves had punctured about 56 holes on the pipeline from where they siphoned crude into vessels, barges and tank farms for export and local refining.
In its renewed battle to fight the ugly situation to a standstill in the region, the Joint Task Force accompanied Shell’s technical crew on ground trotting exercise along oil pipelines in the high sea. The ground trotting exercise covered the NCTL between San Barth Manifold to Krakrama on the water ways.
The Commanding Officer, 130 Battalion, Lt. Col. Caius Banshe, who led the JTF team, explained that the exercise was to confirm bunkering points on the Nembe Line that had been fixed by the multi-national oil giant. Shell’s surveillance contractors and the technical team were part of the verification exercise.
A Spokesman for Shell, Mr. Joseph Obari, told journalists on the trip that his firm had to engage some locals as surveillance contractors to alert the firm of ruptured points on its pipeline, adding that the company at the end of the day sends its maintenance team to work on the points.