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Crude oil theft: Nigeria Govt moves to combat ill, protect economy



Crude oil theft in Niger Delta of Nigeria

The Nigerian Government may have finally woken from decades of slumber as national resources were either wasted, or outrightly and brazenly stolen by daylight robbers, especially as it involves crude oil theft.

To that effect, various organs and agencies of the Federal Republic converged to discuss strategies to combat oil theft and protect the country’s resources.

The meeting was convened by lawmakers of upper chamber, the Senate, on Tuesday March 19, 2024.

It was chaperoned by the Senate Committees on Petroleum (Upstream), Gas, Niger Delta and Host Communities.

These constituted a Joint Committee to monitor the effects of crude oil theft and proffer solution.

The meeting was attended by representatives of the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), et al.

During the meeting, the attendees devised means to combat the menace which has left the nation’s resources at the mercy of thieves.

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Effects of crude oil theft

Crude oil theft has in Nigeria has been a persistent challenge, impacting both production and revenue.

Below are some significant effects of crude oil theft:

1. Extent of Theft

Nigeria faces significant crude oil theft, with billions of Dollars’ worth lost to this illegal activity within just one year.

Nigerian authorities estimate that over the last year, more than $3 billion worth of oil was stolen.

Thieves siphon off oil from official pipelines, leading to a decline in production.

In the Niger Delta region, a network of illegal pipelines has been uncovered, revealing the scope of the problem.

2. Methods and Impact

According to findings, thieves build pipelines in the creeks, through which stolen oil are transport to Atlantic Ocean.

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Barges and vessels openly load the stolen oil from visible rigs, resulting to heavy loss to the economy.

This, in turn, exacerbates poverty and debt, as recent discovery confirms suspicions of corruption in the oil sector.

Government Response

Over the years, corrupt Government officials, caught neck-deep into the nefarious activities have played a blind eye.

Rather, it was private security firms, instead of the assigned authorities, that have discovered the illegal pipelines.

The security outfit contracted for the job was Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo)’s Tantita Security.

Tompolo, presently a community leader, now guards the same pipelines he once attacked as a militant.

The former Niger Delta militant insists that security personnel are involved in crude oil theft, even in areas with heavy army and navy outposts.

The partnership between Tantita and the military is aimed at cracking down on crude oil theft.

In a bid to address crude oil theft, which has remained crucial for Nigeria’s economic stability and transparency, the Senate, under the chairmanship of Senator (Dr) Patrick Ifeanyi Ubah, held a round table with security personnel.

Senator Ifeanyi Ubah speaking during the meeting to discuss strategies to combat crude oil theft

Senator Ifeanyi Ubah speaking during the meeting to discuss strategies to combat crude oil theft

What was the outcome of the Senate meeting?

Addressing newsmen over the outcome of the meeting, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, who represents Anambra South Senatorial District, emphasized on the need for collaborative effort in combating issues of oil theft in Nigeria.

Ubah also highlighted the detrimental effects of this illegal activity on the economy and the environment.

He stressed the importance of taking decisive action to address the problem of crude oil theft.

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Addressing government agencies, he called for greater transparency and accountability in the oil industry to avert corruption and collusion with criminal elements.

According to him, the joint committee will collaborate with security agencies, community leaders and stakeholders.

The commitment to curb the menace, he said, cannot be over-emphasised.

“The Joint Committee also discussed various strategies to tackle oil theft, including increasing surveillance and patrols in vulnerable areas, improving intelligence gathering and sharing among relevant agencies, and enhancing the legal framework to prosecute offenders.

“The meeting was productive and resulted in a commitment from all stakeholders to work together to combat crude oil theft in Nigeria,” Ubah said.

He enjoined the Joint Committee to commit to ending this economic crime in Nigeria’ and expressed confidence that with the laid down approach, this pressing issue will be addressed.

Crude oil theft in Nigeria poses a significant challenge, impacting both production and revenue.

Security personnel present during the meeting

Security personnel present during the meeting

Other verified options and applicable efforts

Here are some efforts and options being explored to curb this menace:

1. Improved Governance and Transparency

Enhancing governance and transparency in oil sector is crucial and regulatory frameworks must be strengthened.

Also, compliance with industry standards should be enforced, while proper auditing and monitoring of oil operations should be conducted.

If implemented, this can minimize corruption and collusion in oil theft.

2. Policing Maritime ‘Choke Points’

The Government should focus on securing critical maritime routes and choke points to prevent crude oil theft.

Security forces should collaborate with other government agencies in the maritime domain to enhance security.

Senators discuss strategies to combat crude oil theft

Senators discuss strategies to combat oil theft

3. Counter-Piracy Measures

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Authorities must take stronger action against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea if they hope to prevent oil theft.

They must also address piracy-related challenges to contribute to the overall security in the region.

4. Due Diligence Practices on Refiners

Implementing due diligence practices, especially when approving new sellers, ensures better scrutiny.

Refiners, on the other hand, can play a significant role in preventing the purchase of stolen oil.

More applicable approaches to combat crude oil theft

5. Community Engagement and Stakeholder Cooperation

Local communities and stakeholders must be essentially engaged.

Also, building trust, addressing economic challenges, and involving communities in safeguarding oil facilities can deter crude oil theft.

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6. Investment in Security and Surveillance

The relevant authorities must allocate resources to improve security infrastructure, surveillance, and monitoring of pipelines and facilities.

If and when adequate security measures are in place, these can deter criminals and reduce crude oil theft incidents.

7. Collaboration with Business Leaders and Experts

Experts, geologists, and industry leaders should be engaged, which can, in turn lead to innovative solutions.

Finally, a multifaceted approach involving regulation, security, community engagement, and collaboration must be deployed to combat oil theft in Nigeria.

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