By Sebastine Obasi
The recurring pipeline vandalism, which has done a lot of damage to both the Nigerian environment and the economy at large, may be a thing of the past, if the recent involvement of host communities by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, is anything to go by.
The involvement of host communities in protecting the pipelines may have been borne out of the reasoning that they are grass root – based and are therefore adequately knowledgeable about their immediate environment. Communities know their people. They know the bad eggs among them. They can easily tell when a visitor steps in.
At the recent pipeline fire at Baruwa Community in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos, the NNPC adopted the host community model as an innovation to see that pipeline vandalism is brought to the barest minimum. Mr. Yemi Adetunji, Chief Operating Officer, Downstream of the NNPC, who led the team, stated that it had become imperative for players and stakeholders in the industry to join hands with the NNPC in its effort to stamp out the ugly menace.
He said the fire incident of December 5, 2019, which was immediately extinguished within 24 hours with subsequent restoration of the affected line, was one ugly episode which must not be allowed to fester, especially in the System 2B Pipeline Network which serves as an invaluable corridor for seamless supply of petroleum products.
He noted that in 2018, there was a fire outbreak in the same Baruwa community and this year two incidences were reported in November and December, saying security agencies and the local community must rise up to the challenge and secure oil pipeline facilities which he described as critical national assets. The COO, however, assured that the Baruwa pipeline attacks would not affect the current seamless supply and distribution of petroleum products nationwide, even as he added that the corporation had placed a reliable product supply mechanism to handle situations of this nature.
The Chairman of Peace Estate Development Association, Mr. Omojowo Adedeji, said that the entire residents of the estate, which borders the scene of the incessant attacks, fully aligned with the renewed drive by the NNPC to stamp out the illicit trade in stolen oil within and around the community. Alhaji Khalid Baruwa, the Bale of Baruwa Community also identified with the push by the Corporation to tackle the issue headlong. He stressed the need to fortify surveillance around the host community with clear demarcation of pipeline Right-of-Way.
Prior to the Baruwa incident, the NNPC had said that it had seen a 77-percent jump in the number of cases of oil and fuel pipeline vandalism on its pipeline infrastructure. As many as 106 pipeline points were breached in June, up from 60 breaches on NNPC’s pipeline network in May. “In spite of the wanton breaches of its critical pipeline network during the period, the corporation ensured continuous fuel supply and effective distribution across the country,” NNPC said in a statement. Insufficient pipeline safety has been one of the key drawbacks of Nigeria’s oil sector in recent years.
There is no gainsaying the fact that pipeline vandalism does more than good both to the nation’s economy and the immediate environment. It deprives the country of its expected revenue, just as it discourages foreign direct investment in the oil and gas sector. No investor goes to a place where its investment is at risk. Most importantly, the environment is the loser. When crude oil or other petroleum products leak into the environment, the different compounds (depending on their physical properties) evaporate into the air, are absorbed by the soil, or enter ground and surface water.
Pipeline vandalism also often leads to fires, which release respirable particulate matter (PM) into the air. Hazards to human health may result from dermal contact with soil and water; ingestion of contaminated drinking water, crops, or fish; or inhalation of vaporized product or PM and partly burned hydrocarbons produced by fires. In addition, pipeline vandalism may have indirect health effects through damage of livelihood resources, such as diminished yields from degraded agricultural land and fishing grounds.
NNPC’s new strategy is no doubt commendable. The Corporation has taken a swift action by clearing the Right of Way to ensure that people do not put up structures close to pipelines. The involvement of relevant security agencies, such as the National Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, to tackle the menace is a right step in the right direction.
According to the Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, the collaboration between NNPC and NSCDC had gone a long way in ensuring uninterrupted supply and distribution of petroleum products through the pipelines and various depots. “I want to applaud the NSCDC for contributing its quota towards the protection and security of our pipelines.
Your efforts have made our pipelines to be available for the movement of petroleum products from one petroleum asset to another,” he said recently. Now that the National Assembly is talking about constitutional amendment, the issue of pipeline vandalism should be given the attention it deserves by making laws that spell out appropriate punishment for vandals and economic saboteurs.