Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba
The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba, has disclosed that the bulk of Nigeria’s crude oil is stolen from the crude export terminals as the security agencies have no access to metres installed at export terminals to determine the volume of crude exported.
Ezeoba, who made the observation Thursday at a forum on ‘Oil Theft and Illegal Bunkering in the Niger Delta’ convened by the Special Adviser to the President on the Niger Delta, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, noted that the menace of crude theft had become a major threat to the nation’s economy, saying very urgent measures needed to be adopted to address the problem.
He expressed concern that Nigeria was the only country that allows what he described as “load plus five per cent” on each vessel, insisting that there must be transparency and accountability in the manner crude oil lifting is done.
THISDAY had exclusively reported two weeks ago that the bulk of crude oil theft takes place at the terminals operated by international oil companies (IOCs), where lifters cart away crude oil in excess of their allocations.
Ezeoba said: “The bigger theft is the one that occurs at the export loading terminals. This is beyond all of us. We have no access to the metres at the export terminals.”
He said urgent steps should be taken to address the menace, but argued that the fight against crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism was a collective responsibility and no one agency could do it alone.
As a way forward, he suggested that oil majors should adopt the use of technology to secure the integrity of their pipelines and should establish Rights of Way (RoW) for their pipelines, to enable security officials easily identify areas where there are breaches.
Also, he canvassed that host communities should be involved in security arrangements, as that would give them a sense of belonging.
Ezeoba also urged the oil companies to review their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes and ensure improved opportunities for the youths.
He suggested other measures to include: environmental resuscitation, engagement of more youths in the Niger Delta by oil firms, and giving the communities the right to decide what areas they want as CRS by oil firms.
The CNS also canvassed for speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) into law, as according to him, the bill provides for solutions to most of these problems.
He also said there must be availability of petroleum products for the people of Niger Delta as the lack of petroleum products pushes them to petronise illegal refineries. It is estimated that petrol is sold at between N200 and N300 a litre in the Niger Delta region.
Earlier in his address, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, accused some tank farm owners in Nigeria of complicity in crude oil theft and petroleum products diversion, pointing out that what the locals steal constitutes only about seven per cent of what is stolen on a daily basis.
He said some vessels and barges used for illicit oil deals belong to some of the tank farm owners, while stolen products have been traced to some of the depots in Nigeria.
Akpobolokemi, who blamed rising oil theft on greed and insincerity on the part of oil industry operators and some government officials, said: “The situation can only change, if people change their attitudes.”
He disclosed that the government was considering very stringent measures in the fight against the menace and informed Nigerians to expect a “tsunami in the oil industry very soon”.
“Steadily, these vessels and barges that are used to steal our oil end up in tank farms. Who are owners of these tank farms? We can trace them to who is harbouring them and in whose tank farms the products are harboured,” he added.
The NIMASA boss said the military alone could not do much and suggested that the way to stem the tide of theft and vandalism was by setting up a robust surveillance team that would be made up of oil community representatives.
Akpobolokemi, who stated that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) were not up and doing in their responsibilities, also faulted Nigeria’s legal processes and procedures for mishandling cases involving oil theft.
“It is not the petty thieves that are our problem, but environmental degradation and the ecosystem that is being destroyed. The hypocrisy demonstrated by oil companies is causing a lot of problems,” he said.
According to information released at the event, some 400,000 barrels a day or 63,600,000 litres of oil is said to be stolen in Nigeria.