By Emman Ovuakporie and Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA- A law transferring the responsibility of safeguarding the nation’s network of oil pipelines to the States as against the current trend of contracting such role to private firms by the Federal government is underway in the National Assembly.
This is sequel to the second reading of a Bill for an Act to Amend the Oil Pipelines Act Cap 7 laws of the Federation 2004 to Provide for the Transfer of Protection of Oil Pipelines, Safety and Security Across the Federation to the States Governors and Other Matters Connected Therewith on the floor of the House of Representatives on Wednesday.
Sponsor of the bill Rep. Olarotimi Mikail Makinde, (APC, Osun) stated that the importance of oil and its installations to the nation’s economy cannot be over-stressed; and as such, the security and safety of such installations should no longer be handled with levity.
Makinde noted that since oil contributes about 90percent of the nation’s foreign exchange earnings and about 25percent of the Gross Domestic Products (GDP), it was high time government prioritise the safety of what has come to be the life-wire of the nation’s existence as a fledging economy in the 21st century.
He said: “Nigeria has a very good infrastructure for the transportation of refined petroleum products which is about 5,120km pipelines network connecting 21 oil depots and 19 pump stations. Regrettably, the pipelines are not in maximum economic utilization”.
“This is due to three main factors: (1) incessant illegal tapping by oil thieves, (2) sabotage, (3) poor management of pipeline; however, if the latter is remodeled, illegal tapping and sabotage would be tackled effectively”, he said.
Makinde said the intent of the Bill was not to usurp the powers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps as contained in section 3 of its extant Act but to enable the States Governors whom as stated earlier are the Chief security officers of their various States working in collaboration with the NSCDC.
The Bill which incidentally was the only one debated at Wednesday plenary received massive support from lawmakers.
Rep Abba Abdulrahman Terrab (PDP, Borno) in speaking for the Bill told fellow lawmakers that: “I would like to identify myself with the spirit of this bill. We have at several times tried to protect our pipelines, but it seems all efforts to do so has proven unsuccessful.
However, what’s most important for us now is that this is a serious problem and we need a solution. So I would urge that we pass this bill through second reading and when it gets to committee level, we can then look at whether community leaders should have roles to play via the mandate of the States”.
“They should engage them depending on what input we gather during the public hearing. Beyond that again, I believe the bill itself is of a good intention and should be supported so that we can find a lasting solution to the threatening menace of vandalism”, Terrab said.
Odebumi Segun, (PDP, Ondo) told his colleagues that; “the bill before us is a very simple and straight forward document with a special focus on the protection of our economy. Those involved in this vandalisaion are a small unit of the population and we can’t continue to ignore the strength of our youths if the states should engage them to safeguard these pipelines. We should pass this bill to second reading and then make amendment where necessary”.
Akinlaja Joseph also from Ondo stated that “with my 35 years experience in the oil industry, up until some years back, there was no pipelines vandalism. We need to empower State governments and to some extent, the police DPOs to help protect this facilities”.
“Mr. Speaker, those who carry out vandalism do not expect any punishment. If a child does a bad thing and gets punished, he or she would learn his/her lesson. The communities also need to be involved because these people know those areas and the vandals. So I support it on the ground that we should involve the State governments to stop this ugly trend”, he said.
Recall that in 2012, it was reported that the federal government signed a $103million contract with a company called, Global West Vessel Specialist Agency Limited belonging to a former militant leader, Mr. Government Ekpumopolo popularly known as Tompolo for the security and safety of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta region.