Nigeria’s Naval Chief Disputes NNPCL, Petroleum Ministry’s Oil Theft Figures

•Says it’s impossible to steal 200,000 barrels of oil in one day

•States Equatorial Guinea set to release 3m-capacity supertanker

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

Nigeria’s Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, yesterday disputed oil theft figures from the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) and the ministry of petroleum, insisting that it wasn’t possible to steal that quantity of oil in a day.

Although the figures are usually estimates, the NNPCL and the ministry have variously put the total quantity of barrels stolen per day at between 200,000 to 400,000 per day.

But Gambo, while speaking last night on Channels Television, insisted that the data may not only be from oil theft, maintaining that the government authorities were making the error of calculating losses due to force majeure as well as shut-ins as part of oil being stolen.

“Inasmuch as there is no perfect system, the phenomenon of oil theft and losses must be properly de-conflicted in order to profer lasting solutions to the malaise which is currently bedevilling our economic resources.

“Here, we need to understand the differences between oil theft and of course, oil loss. While oil theft is siphoning oil from vandalised pipes into barges, oil losses occur when there is non-production, especially during shut-ins and force majeure as the federal government does not earn the desired revenue it should,” he argued.

 According to him, oil losses could be  as a result of metering errors on the operating platforms, stressing that the volume of crude oil shut-ins from non-production are often added to oil theft data instead of accounting for them as oil losses by the authorities.

“This should not be. Some sources also claim that about 20,000 to 200,000 barrels per day are being considered stolen. Most of these claims are definitely outrageous and they are unrealistic,” he added.

Gambo stated that a close analysis of the alleged oil theft data showed that it would be impossible to steal that volume of oil without being detected.

“Let us even briefly analyse this. For instance, 100,000 barrels of crude oil is equivalent to 15,800,000 litres of crude , which requires a five-ton barge making 3,160 trips per day to convey this product out of the creeks.

“How do you pass the estuaries with this? So, let’s assume now you even have many barges because of the time required to carry out this product. That means you entirely close the navigable waters heading out to sea, through the estuaries, to embark them or to transit them into a mother vessel that will eventually take them out of the country.

“Of course, this is most unlikely considering the heightened presence of security agencies in the maritime environment as well as the launch of the subsisting operations by the Nigerian Navy, including of course, the deployment of the maritime domain awareness facilities,” Gambo maintained.

In recent times, the navy had been accused by Nigerians of being complicit in the theft of Nigeria’s crude, which had led to the country being barely able to produce 65 per cent of its Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) quota.

While Nigeria’s allocation in July was 1.8 million barrels per day, the country was only able to produce a paltry 1.083 million barrels per day. This has negatively impacted the Nigerian economy with the value of the naira falling to an arguably all-time low of over N700.

But the CNS stated that the Navy’s facilities have in the last four weeks detected a number of vessels attempting to load crude and liquefied natural gas within offshore terminals without necessary documentation and approval from the relevant authorities like the NNPCL.

According to him,  it is after such a vessels have been arrested that updated documents of the vessels are forwarded to the Navy to effect a release when they are duly programmed to load  liquids within Nigeria’s maritime domain.

Gambo listed  such incidences that have occurred in the past four weeks to five weeks to include the arrest of MT Arabia, which is an LNG supertanker, which entered the country on the 12th of July to load liquefied natural gas without relevant documents.

He added that MT Trinity Arrow, which was also apprehended for entering without necessary approval only got clearance to load LNG on the 12th of July also after its papers were updated.

The latest, he said,  is the supertanker, MT HEROIC which is 336 meters long, and 60 meters wide, describing it as a very massive ship.

 “Imagine the size of three football fields and 1/3 more. It has the capacity of carrying 3 million barrels,” he reiterated.

Gambo stressed that talks were in progress to ensure the handover of the asset for a proper investigation into its actions and why it accused the Nigerian Navy of being sea pirates.

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