With the prolonged nationwide darkness and a recent statement credited to the president’s media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina imploring Nigerians to go and fight pipeline vandals, Ejiofor Alike posits that the government may be overwhelmed by the activities of vandals, who disrupt gas supply to power generating stations
The sabotage of gas transportation lines by militants and restive communities has over the years, frustrated federal government’s efforts to address the huge electricity deficit in the country.
According to statistics by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria produces about eight billion cubic feet of gas per day.
Of this figure, 1.9 billion cubic feet is supplied to the domestic market daily for power generation and other domestic uses.
With gas accounting for 81 per cent of electricity generation in the country, the constant attacks on major gas pipelines have disrupted gas supply to the power generating stations.
Among all the gas pipeline networks that are susceptible to attacks by vandals and oil thieves, the Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP) in the eastern Niger Delta and the Trans Forcados Pipeline (TFP), in the western Niger Delta are the worst hit.
For instance, between December 29, 2014 and February 9, 2015, six different attacks on these pipelines resulted to the loss of 150 million standard cubic feet per day of gas (MMScf/ d), an equivalent of 700 megawatts.
Indeed, when Forcados was closed down in the first week of January 2015 due to sabotage, power generation dropped by 1,500 megawatts as almost half of the country’s gas production was affected.
Forcados is Nigeria’s major artery, accounting for 40-50 percent of gas production in the country.
The current nationwide darkness has also been blamed on the recent bombing of the Forcados subsea pipeline.
The February 14, 2016 spill on Forcados subsea pipeline forced Shell to declare force majeure on February 21, with the country losing over 1,500 megawatts to the damage, which is yet to be repaired.
The country has since remained in darkness after the February 2, 2016 peak generation of 5,074 megawatts.
Forcados pipeline is a crude oil facility but once it is heavily impacted by sabotage or equipment failure, gas fields that supply gas to power stations are shut down because the liquid condensate they produce together with gas is normally evacuated through the pipeline.
Another major pipeline that has suffered constant attacks by oil thieves and vandals is the Escravos-Warri-Lagos Pipeline.
The pipeline is owned and operated by the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC), a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Apart from being targeted by vandals, the Escravos pipeline has also been vandalised several times by the aggrieved elements in Gbaramatu and Ugborode communities in Warri South West Local Government Area, each time they have cause to protest against the NNPC or Chevron.
The first pipeline attack under this current administration before the latest Forcados incident had occurred when suspected ex-militants blew up a section of the pipeline in Warri South-West Local Government Area.
The attackers reportedly blew up the gas pipeline at three different points -Opudebubor, Okpelama and Kpokpo area, Chanomi Creek and Sahara, behind Chevron Nigeria Limited.
Shortly before the attack, Niger Delta ex-militant’s leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, had raised the alarm that some persons were planning to bomb crude oil facilities in the Niger Delta and attribute the attacks to him.
He blamed those allegedly aggrieved with the re-election of Governor Henry Seriake-Dickson of Bayelsa State for the planned attack.
When Escravos-Warri-Lagos pipeline is down, it impacts gas supply to power stations in Olorunsogo in Ogun State, Geregu in Kogi State, Omotosho in Ondo State and Egbin Power Station in Lagos State.
In fact, the 1,320 megawatt-capacity Egbin Power Station receives all its feedstock through the Escravos-Lagos pipeline system, which has a capacity of over 800 million standard cubic feet per day of gas (MMscfd).
Also the 434megwatt capacity Geregu 1 Power Station in Kogi State, and the Geregu NIPP Plant, which has the same installed capacity rely on Escravos pipeline for gas supply.
Others include Olorunsogo Power Plants 1 and 2 in Ogun State; and Omotosho Power Plants 1 and 2 in Ondo State.
From Itoki in Ogun State, the Escravos-Lagos-Pipeline also feeds into the West African Gas Pipeline, which takes gas from Nigeria to Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic for power generation and other domestic uses.
The pipeline also supply crude oil to Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company, as well as gas feedstock to the West Africa Gas Pipeline Company (WAPCo); West African Portland Cement Plants at Shagamu and Ewekoro in Ogun State; PZ Industries at Ikorodu; and City Gate in lkeja, Lagos.
Government’s perceived helplessness
Despite the damage inflicted on Nigeria’s oil and gas infrastructure, as well as the economic lives of the nation and her people by vandals, the federal government seems to have lacked effective strategies to tackle the menace of vandalism.
It is believed that both the government’s security forces and the private security guards deployed to check vandalism have either been overwhelmed by the activities of vandals or have been compromised as sabotage of gas infrastructure has remained a major impediment against sustainable power supply, despite the huge resources spent by the federal government to maintain the forces watching over these critical assets.
The federal government’s perceived helpless has been demonstrated by the pronouncements of key members of the government, who have resorted to appealing to the conscience of vandals.
For instance, a former Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo, who had vowed during his screening by the Senate to chase away the demons from the power sector, was on several occasions literally begging vandals to keep away from the country’s gas facilities when it dawned on him that former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration would not hit its targeted 5,000MW of electricity by 2015 due to vandalism.
Also President Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina was quoted in a recent Television interview imploring Nigerians to go and hold vandals responsible for the current drop in power supply.
“If you are crying that you are in darkness, go and fight vandals,” he was quoted as saying.
But apparently embarrassed by the poor power situation, the federal government had earlier through the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed apologised to Nigerians for the epileptic power situation.
Mohammed had also blamed vandalism for partly being responsible for the power woes.
“The vandalism of the Forcados export pipelines forced oil companies to shut down, making it impossible for them to produce gas,” he added.
The government’s perceived helplessness is a disincentive to the private investors, who bought the power assets based on government’s guarantee to provide gas to power the generating plants.
A former Group Executive Director in charge of Gas and Power at the NNPC, Mr. David Ige told THISDAY that vandalism needed to be addressed.
According to him, gas pipeline vandalism is usually a manifestation of grievance with the community or militants.
Ige, who is the Chief Executive Officer of GasInvest Limited, added that crude oil vandalism could also be a consequence of grievance or outright criminal motive (theft), stressing that bespoke solutions must be developed for each.
He said despite the frustrations about gas, gas supply capacity had actually grown at the fastest rate in the last three years or so.
“From about 400mmcf/d a few years ago, the domestic supply capacity is now close to 2,000mmcf/d. However much of this growth is not visible due to the vandalism mentioned above or due to other challenges in the power sector such as transmission,” he added.
To curb vandalism, Ige suggested social engagement in the Niger Delta, stressing that inclusion and empowerment is key.
He also advocated technology deployment for surveillance of infrastructure and rapid response (drones), as well as monitoring and classification of contractors for effective policing of contractors that may be colluding with vandals to destroy the assets.