By Victor Ahiuma-Young, Samuel Oyadongha & Davies Iheamnachor
The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN; Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF; and Host Communities Organisation, HOSTCOM, yesterday, disagreed over alleged involvement of Niger Delta stakeholders in crude oil theft and vandalism.
President of PENGASSAN, Festus Osifo, who addressed newsmen in Lagos, said the country was losing close to 500,000 barrels of crude oil per day to theft and pipeline vandalism, alleging high-level collusion by stakeholders in Niger Delta.
He called on the Federal Government to beam its security searchlight on the activities of the vandals and crude oil thieves to bring the culprits to book, before they crumble the nation’s economy.
But PANDEF said the allegation by PENGASSAN that oil bunkering in Niger Delta was done in connivance with leaders of the oil-rich region was only in self-defence and demanded an apology from the union.
On its part, HOSTCOM denied the allegation, saying: “The military task force, many of whom are not from the region, should be blamed.”
Osifo at the briefing, said: “The issue of crude oil theft has been exacerbated in recent times. This has made Nigeria lose out on accruing more revenue from the current high price of crude oil in the international market.
“We currently produce an average of 1.2 million to 1.3 million barrels of crude oil daily from a capacity of about two million barrels of crude oil per day. From October 2021 to February 2022, between 90 and 99 per cent of crude oil pumped into the Trans National Pipeline, TNP, by operators was vandalised.
“Reconciliation/fiscalization at Bonny terminal shows that between five and 10 per cent of crude oil metered from the operators gets to the terminals. Nigeria is losing close to 500,000 barrels of crude oil daily to theft and pipeline vandalism.
“Another problem arising from vandalism is that companies are forced to go into curtailment when these assets/export pipelines are damaged as they cannot export what they produce, thereby incurring production losses. An operator loses an average of 10 days of production shut-in every month due to vandalism.
“Recent preliminary work showed that about 150 illegal tapings were used in siphoning crude oil from the TNP. This has forced all operators injecting crude into the TNP to suspend export/injection thereby shutting-in production. TOTAL Energies and SPDC, for example, stopped production into the TNP pipeline while Agip ENI declared force majeure on their brass terminal.
“Beyond the reduction in revenue to the operating companies and the country, this act of sabotage has caused serious environmental degradation to the host communities and region. The health implication of this unholy act will be monumental in years to come. We suspect high level collusion among stakeholders in Niger Delta.
“As a matter of urgent national importance, the association hereby asks the Federal Government to work with stakeholders in the oil and gas industry as well as the national security architecture to find a lasting solution to this menace that is almost bringing the oil and gas industry to its knees.
“It is our expectation that the pipelines integrity will be sound enough to enable safe transportation of crude and products all over the country, while government establishes a special force committed to strict enforcement of Pipeline Right of Way. Pipeline installation can now be done using state-of-the-art technology in a manner that will be inaccessible to vandals.
“We expect that the managers of the pipelines imbibe the culture of regular maintenance while the government will live up to its responsibility of providing adequate security. Security agencies should be empowered to ensure regular surveillance of the pipelines to detect and prevent vandals’ action and there should be periodic movement of the personnel to discourage them from compromising the security of the assets.
“We also call on the government to review the enabling legal instruments for sanctioning violators/defaulters.”
On high prices of diesel, kerosine, aviation fuel
On the high prices of diesel, kerosine, and aviation fuel, PENGASSAN urged the Federal Government to remove all forms of taxes and levies from the importation of petroleum products.
It said: “In the last few months, we have watched with keen interest the endless queues that Nigerians face at the petrol stations on a daily basis. This was initially attributed to the low quality of PMS imported into the country, later to the hoarding of products by marketers and lastly to the refusal of tanker drivers to transport products to different parts of the country.”
PENGASSAN complicit in oil bunkering, speaking in self-defence — PANDEF
PANDEF has, however, said the allegation by PENGASSAN that oil bunkering in Niger Delta was done in connivance with leaders of the oil rich region was only in self-defence.
National Publicity Secretary of PANDEF, Ken Robinson, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday, said: “It is an outrageous statement. Perhaps PENGASSAN knows those that are doing it, then they should mention them.
“But it is shameful that the leadership of a union of that calibre will come up with that kind of unfortunate statement.
“The truth of the matter is that some security agencies in connivance with operators of the oil sectors are the ones stealing our crude.
“As we speak now, you will be surprised to know that thousands of barrels of crude are being illegally escorted from the Nigerian waterways to the deep seas and taken out of Nigeria by officials of the oil industries.
“These things cannot happen without an internal connivance. The minute activities of our young men who for out of frustration, anger and lack of what to do, without in anyway supporting those activities, that go into illegal refining of products, is like 0.1 per cent of the oil theft that is going on.
“The outrageous, humongous figures that government says they lost through stolen crude are not from the little amount of crude that is used by the illegal refining of crude in Niger Delta.”
Robinson said PENGASSAN spoke in self-defence, demanding that the union should apologise to the leaders of Niger Delta on the allegation.
He said: “The bulk of the illegal bunkering is supported by those who work in the oil industries, because they know how these things are done.
“It is in self-defence and trying to evade the truth that these labour leaders will come up with such outrageous statement. It is completely unacceptable and we ask PENGASSAN to withdraw that statement and apologise to Niger Delta people without delay.”
Military task force should be blamed — HOSTCOM
Reacting to claims of Niger Deltans involvement in crude oil theft, Chief Benjamin Tamaranebi, National President of HOSTCOM, said: “I disagree with the claim blaming Niger Deltans for crude theft in the region.
Instead, the military task force, many of whom are not from the region, should be blamed. Many of those involved in this unwholesome activities are being aided by security operatives.
“That is why it is becoming so difficult to stop the pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft in the region. Let me state this clearly, host communities have the capacity to secure our environment because it is affecting us badly.
“Most of our people are being informed about the danger but when it is being aided by the military, our hands are tied. We have reported several times to the authorities but no action has been taken.
“We are critical stakeholders and I feel it is high time both the companies and government interfaced with the host communities to discuss matters affecting the industry because our environment is at stake and our three per cent is at stake.
“Look at the oil spills that happened in Nembe, Bayelsa and ONELGA in Rivers. These are test cases that people should know. Communities are not involved. Equipment failures are there.
“The lifespan of these assets have taken more than 50 years. Are the companies ready to change? Have they changed those pipes? Have they checked the integrity of those pipelines? It is not enough to say sabotage what about equipment failures? These are some of the key issues we are looking at.
“Look at the current situation we are now facing, is it caused by the host communities or our people? It is those people that government has already given the security that are conniving with the military to sabotage our environment.”
Military operatives collude with oil thieves –Ex-militant
An ex-militant leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said: “It is known fact that some military operatives collude with oil thieves operating in the region. Also, some of the illegal refining camps are owned by them.
Check out the several checkpoints mounted by security operatives on the waterways yet crude oil theft is rife in our creeks.
“What about the many checkpoints on the road by officials of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps? The day they chose to do their work diligently, the problem will be eradicated.”
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