Churches, mosques involved in Nigeria's oil theft

One of the AGIP pipelines sabotaged by crude oil thieves

One of the AGIP pipelines sabotaged by crude oil thieves

By Ismaila Chafe

The CEO of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL), Mele Kyari, said communities, churches and mosques are involved in the theft of Nigeria’s crude oil and refined products.

Kyari stated this at the weekly Ministerial Media Briefing organized by the Presidential Media Team led by Mr Femi Adesina, the President’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, on Tuesday in Abuja.

According to him, churches, mosques, security agencies as well as communities where pipelines pass through were involved in pipeline vandalism and theft of petroleum products.

He said so far, the NNPC, in conjunction with security agencies, had destroyed 959 metal tanks for storage purposes, 737 ovens, 452 dug-out pits, 355 cooking pots, and 179 wooden boats between April and August, this year.

He added that the security officials also recovered 207 pumping machines, 12 welding machines, two power generators, and two filling machines.

Kyari said 11 vessels, 30 speed boats, 37 trucks and cars were impounded, while 122 suspects were arrested in connection with various cases of theft of petroleum products.

”As you may also be aware, because of the very unfortunate acts of vandals along our major pipelines from Atlas Cove all the way to Ibadan, and all others connecting all the 37 depots that we have across the country, none of them can take delivery of products today.

”And the reason is very simple. For some of the lines, for instance, from Warri to Benin, we haven’t operated that line for 15 years. Every molecule of product that we put get lost.

”And of course you remember the tragic fire incident very close to Warri, close to Sapele that killed so many people.

“So, we had to shut it down and as we speak, the level of losses that we have on our product pipeline, and I’m sure you may have seen it and I’ll invite you at the right time so we can take a look at it jointly.”

He also recalled the fire outbreak happened in the Lagos area, adding, ”in one of our pipelines, we discovered that some of the pipelines were actually connected to individuals homes.

”And not only that, and with all sensitivity to our religious beliefs, you know, some of the pipelines and some of the products that we found, were actually in churches and in mosques.

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”That means that everybody is involved. There is no way you will take products, bring in trucks in populated neighbourhoods, load it and leave without everybody else knowing about it.

”That everybody includes members of the community, members of the religious leadership and also and most likely government officials of all natures, including security agencies personnel.

”They are everywhere. And I’ve seen this even in the Niger Delta. There’s no way you would deliver a volume and lose up to 30 per cent and you will continue to put that products in this line.”

He, however, revealed, the NNPCL had recovered 35.8 million litres of the stolen crude oil, 22 million litres of diesel, 0.15 litres of petrol, and 0.76 million litres of kerosene.

He said the large-scale theft from the nation’s pipelines has throttled exports, forced some companies to shut in production and crippled the country’s finances.

He said individuals were siphoning off a total of around 200,000 barrels per day (bpd).

The impact on exports is a reduction of 700,000 bpd, Kyari said, because theft had forced at least 700 “lock-ins” of oil production.

“No-one produces oil so that the next person can take it,” he said. “The wise thing to do is to stop production.”

Kyari said some of the pipeline taps were so sophisticated that they ran for 3-4 kilometres and would have involved cranes, industrial equipment and at least 40 workers.

NNPC has engaged companies, including those owned by ex-militants to stem theft, and Kyari said the nation’s anti-graft agency was also following the cash and would prosecute those involved.

Kyari said Nigeria was building a “national reserve company” that would run the pipelines on a commercial basis and would be able to manage theft and other issues differently.

“In the meantime, there is very little else we can do except continue to manage (moving oil) on trucks,” he said.

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