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
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
•Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva