Pipe­line van­dal­ism: Can­cer­ous thriv­ing busi­ness de­fy­ing work­able so­lu­tions

There are con­cerns over the ac­tiv­i­ties of crim­i­nals, who con­tinue to break pipelines to siphon crude oil and petroleum prod­ucts, de­spite a clam­p­down by se­cu­rity agen­cies, ’FEMI ASU re­ports

The Punch - - PANORAMA -

MORE than 260 peo­ple were killed on De­cem­ber 26, 2006 in the Ab­ule-egba area of La­gos af­ter a petrol pipe­line rup­tured by thieves burst into fire.

Re­ports claimed that many res­i­dents had gone to scoop up petrol, us­ing buck­ets, among other things, af­ter thieves punc­tured an un­der­ground pipe­line at night to il­le­gally siphon fuel.

The prob­lem of pipe­line van­dal­ism still re­mains a ma­jor chal­lenge fac­ing the coun­try, in spite of ef­forts by se­cu­rity agen­cies to curb it.

The Nige­rian Navy and the Nige­ria Se­cu­rity and Civil De­fence Corps are sad­dled with the re­spon­si­bil­ity of safe­guard­ing the oil pipelines.

Early in De­cem­ber, 2019, there was a fire out­break on Atlas Cove-mosimi Pipe­line, oth­er­wise called Sys­tem 2B Pipe­line, in the Baruwa Swamp area of La­gos. The Nige­rian Na­tional Petroleum Cor­po­ra­tion said pre­lim­i­nary re­ports of the in­ci­dent in­di­cated that the fire might have been ig­nited by sus­pected oil thieves who had hacked into the line to in­ter­cept flow of petrol.

The in­ferno re­port­edly killed one per­son, in­jured an­other and burnt bridges made of planks in the area be­fore the in­ter­ven­tion of emer­gency man­age­ment work­ers.

The Atlas Cove-mosimi pipelines, which criss­cross com­mu­ni­ties in La­gos and ogun states, are of­ten tar­geted by van­dals. Other parts of the coun­try of­ten re­garded as hotspots for pipe­line van­dals are the Aba-enugu axis, Port Har­court-aba route and Ibadan-ilorin layout.

In Septem­ber last year, the NNPC dis­closed that it recorded a to­tal of 45,347 pipe­line fire out­breaks on its down­stream pipe­line net­work across the coun­try be­tween 2001 to June 2019.

The Group Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, NNPC, Mal­lam Mele Kyari, who spoke at the Nige­ria In­ter­na­tional Pipe­line Tech­nol­ogy and Se­cu­rity Con­fer­ence and Ex­hi­bi­tion in Abuja, said a to­tal of 19 fire in­ci­dents were recorded on petroleum prod­ucts pipelines in 2018.

The na­tional oil firm op­er­ates over 5,000 kilo­me­tres of pipelines, which tra­verse many com­mu­ni­ties to link ter­mi­nals, three re­finer­ies and 20 de­pots for ef­fi­cient trans­porta­tion of crude oil and re­fined petroleum prod­ucts.

Kyari lamented that huge pipe­line as­sets had be­come dif­fi­cult to op­er­ate ef­fi­ciently as a re­sult of the in­ces­sant ac­tiv­i­ties of van­dals and other crim­i­nal syn­di­cates that were be­com­ing in­creas­ingly so­phis­ti­cated.

“Prod­ucts theft and van­dal­ism have con­tin­ued to de­stroy value and put NNPC at a dis­ad­van­taged com­pet­i­tive po­si­tion. A to­tal of 2,146 vandalised points has been recorded be­tween Septem­ber 2018 and Septem­ber 2019,” the NNPC said in its monthly re­port for Septem­ber.

The Nige­ria Ex­trac­tive In­dus­tries Trans­parency Ini­tia­tive dis­closed in Novem­ber that the coun­try lost more than 505 mil­lion bar­rels of crude oil and 4.2 bil­lion litres of petroleum prod­ucts val­ued at $40.06bn and $1.84bn re­spec­tively to theft from 2009 to 2018.

A to­tal of 1,376 pipe­line points were vandalised be­tween Jan­uary and Oc­to­ber, 2019, ac­cord­ing to the NNPC.

The cor­po­ra­tion said 230 vandalised points were recorded in Jan­uary; 137 in Fe­bru­ary; 111 in March; 125 in April; 60 in May; 106 in June; 228 in July; 158 in Au­gust; 186 in Septem­ber and 35 in Oc­to­ber.

The NNPC and the NSCDC in Au­gust 2019 pledged to work to­gether to run pipe­line van­dals and oil thieves out of busi­ness in the coun­try. They made the com­mit­ment dur­ing a visit by the Com­man­dant Gen­eral of the corps, Ab­dul­lahi Muham­madu, to the NNPC GMD.

The na­tional oil firm said its new man­age­ment was putting in place a per­for­mance-based pipe­line pro­tec­tion sys­tem to en­able rel­e­vant se­cu­rity stake­hold­ers to live up to their billings.

The NSCDC said it would de­clare an Anti-pipe­line Van­dal­ism Day event as part of its ef­forts to cre­ate aware­ness of the dan­gers of pipe­line van­dal­ism to the na­tional econ­omy.

The spokesper­son for the NSCDC, La­gos State Com­mand,

Ke­hinde Bada, told our cor­re­spon­dent that the rate of van­dal­ism had dropped dras­ti­cally, say­ing the com­mand re­cently made 20 to 30 ar­rests of van­dals.

Bada said, “We get the nec­es­sary in­tel­li­gence to check any form of bad be­hav­iour be­fore it hap­pens. We have dif­fer­ent joint task­forces that civil de­fence is part of. Re­cently, there was a task­force set up by the Navy, re­gard­ing Atlas Cove.

“our men are de­ployed to Atlas Cove, Ejigbo and all lo­ca­tions where there are pipelines and some of our men are al­ways on pa­trol. The ma­jor chal­lenge is the ter­rain – where some of the pipelines are lo­cated - but it does not de­ter our men from car­ry­ing out their du­ties.”

Last Tues­day, the Nige­rian Navy said its troops con­fronting pipe­line van­dals and oil thieves had dis­man­tled over 300 il­le­gal crude oil si­phon­ing sites in ogun and La­gos states, even as some for­eign col­lab­o­ra­tors with­out gen­uine doc­u­men­ta­tion were also ar­rested.

The Navy said an op­er­a­tion, code-named ‘op­er­a­tion Kurombe,’ was con­ducted by op­er­a­tion Awatse, whose man­date is to put an end to pipe­line van­dal­ism and the theft of crude oil and petroleum prod­ucts, as well as other re­lated crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties that would im­pact neg­a­tively on the se­cu­rity of La­gos and ogun, par­tic­u­larly the Epe and Ogun wa­ter­side ar­eas.

The Navy also said that on De­cem­ber 21, 2019, troops as­signed to op­er­a­tion Awatse started a sur­gi­cal op­er­a­tion to dis­lodge pipe­line van­dals from the NNPC fa­cil­ity at Atlas Cove and its en­vi­rons in La­gos.

“Dur­ing the raid, some de­vices, which in­cluded fab­ri­cated pipes and mul­ti­ple hoses con­nected to the NNPC pipelines to il­le­gally siphon petrol, were dis­cov­ered over 300 points along the pipelines and were sub­se­quently dis­man­tled,” it added.

The NNPC boss said that in De­cem­ber oil theft had re­mained a chal­lenge in the na­tion’s oil and gas in­dus­try, de­spite some strong in­ter­ven­tions in the past.

“Un­for­tu­nately, the com­bi­na­tion of crude oil theft, il­le­gal re­fin­ing and pipe­line van­dal­ism has be­come a ma­jor threat to Nige­ria in meet­ing its rev­enue pro­jec­tions in re­cent time,” he said in Abuja at NEITI”S pol­icy di­a­logue where he was rep­re­sented by the NNPC Chief Op­er­at­ing Of­fi­cer, Up­stream, Mr Roland Ewubare.

Kyari said most stake­hold­ers were of the view that oil theft was es­sen­tially a so­cial prob­lem whose un­der­ly­ing causes in­cluded poverty in the host com­mu­ni­ties, com­mu­ni­tyIn­dus­try ex­pec­ta­tion mis­match and cor­rup­tion.

other causes, he noted, in­cluded in­ef­fec­tive law en­force­ment, poor gov­er­nance, poor prose­cu­tion of of­fend­ers, high un­em­ploy­ment in the com­mu­ni­ties, thriv­ing il­le­gal oil mar­ket in­volv­ing both Nige­ri­ans and for­eign­ers, and in­ad­e­quate fund­ing of re­sources to com­bat oil theft.

•A La­gos pipe­line fire. Photo: File copy

•Kyari

•Min­is­ter of State for Petroleum Re­sources, Timipre Sylva

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