Crude Oil Theft: The Shame of a Country

Eddy Odivwri 

If there was one more needed example of the incompetence and lack of capacity of the Buhari-led administration, it will be the unbridled pillaging of crude oil in Nigeria.

We all do not need to be economists to understand how our economy has been terribly mismanaged, as if the persons in charge of handling the economy are roadside carpenters.

Otherwise, how can it be explained that in the face of the oil boom for all oil-producing nations, 

 occasioned by the Russian-Ukraine war, Nigeria, our beloved country, is wallowing in doom. While the rest of the oil-producing world is celebrating their boom, we are gnashing our teeth in doom, frantically searching for where to borrow money from to service our faithfully increasing debt profile.

It is bad enough that we have refused to take advantage of the boom to swell our treasury, yet it is doubly worse that we are now cadging for funds from anywhere and everywhere to fund our inexplicable rising debt. Now I understand why some persons were fanatically opposed to President Mohammdu Buhari’s aspiration to rule this country in 2015. Their opposition was strictly on the ground that the entirety of the economics and business sense of Buhari did not go beyond his 400 or so cows which he quoted as his asset, year-in, year-out. Thus, dealing with the meganomics of the huge wealth in the black gold clearly appear too complex and humongous for Mr President. The result is that those who work with and around him, capitalize in this deep gap to ruin-run the oil industry.  It is doubly ironic that it is the same Mr President who is clearly deficient in the oil economy is the substantive Petroleum minister, assisted by no-better Minister of State for Petroleum, Mr Timipre Sylva, a graduate of Linguistics. The result is that today, while other oil-producing nations are throwing “petrol-party” and expanding their vault, Nigeria is using fat lens to look for institutions that can lend us money to settle our so-called petroleum subsidy. A crying shame!

The Economist, earlier in the week, lamented how Nigeria is missing out from the oil boom in the world. On all sides, our story is that of regret and lamentation. Not only are we not able to meet up with the OPEC production quota of 1.8 million bpd because of massive theft of our crude, the 700 million barrels we manage to export is not enough to pay for the ever-increasing litres of petrol we import to service local consumption.

The Buhari-led government refused to remove the so-called subsidy in the name of protecting the poor, whereas, the real beneficiaries of the subsidy gesture are members of the nefarious cabal running the country. What is worse, over 30 percent of the imported petroleum products get smuggled out of the country to neighbouring countries like Niger, Chad, Benin Republic etc. Who are those behind the smuggling? Certainly not the poor President Buhari claims to be protecting.

It is bad enough that almost eight years after, none of the four refineries in the country is up and running, as to save us from the senseless importation of refined petroleum products. Yet, it is doubly annoying to know that huge sums in foreign currency are allocated every year for the notorious Turn-Around-Maintenance (TAM) of the sterile refineries, and the staff of those refineries are not only paid regularly, they indeed receive the best pay package in the country. So, what are they being paid for when the refineries, either by design or fortuitous occurrence, are never functional? If the NNPC was a one-man owned company, would it ever be this recklessly operated? 

Even little Angola has gained so much from the oil boom that her own currency has not only been strengthened, it is now more valued than even the American dollar. But in Nigeria, the Naira keeps losing value on a daily basis.

Saudi Arabia , one of the leading producers of oil, who has maximally gained from the oil boom is already considering building a fresh new city from their gains during the oil boom.

What kind of economics is Buhari and his managers practicing?

How can we be so blessed, yet so cursed?

Perhaps the weirdest move made, is the helpless surrender of the oil pipelines to a single individual, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, to secure the pipelines in the creeks and protect same from being vandalized by the oil thieves, at the cost of… wait for it…. N4 billion every month! That means that in a year, Tompolo will gross-in N48 billion into his treasury for protecting the nation’s pipelines, whereas, we have tons and tons of Naval, military and NSCDC officers and personnel in the creeks who are supposed to be performing the same functions now contracted to Tompolo. 

What that simply says is that the said single individual (who was previously indicted by the same government for oil bunkering and related violence) has more efficient and reliable capacity than all the security apparatchik of the nation put together. 

Didn’t the Holy Book say, For where your treasure is, there will your thoughts be also? How can Buhari’s thoughts not be on the nation’s oil kingdom, since therein is our wealth? If the security cannot protect those in the North East and North west, against terrorists (although the military are doing much better now) can it also not protect the nation’s wealth base in the Niger Delta?

But even that (Tompolo) folly is not the end of the story. Already, the kicks against this move is coming from all directions. Former Niger Delta warlord, Asari Dokubo has vowed to resist Tompolo and his surveillance contract as he (Dokubo) has put together his own Security Team, as Tompolo cannot “be eating alone”. Mrs Rita Lori, a vocal Niger Delta matriarch has condemned the move as Tompolo cannot exercise such a boundless franchise to protect oil pipelines everywhere in the Niger Delta.

But the NNPC and the Petroleum ministry have argued, albeit in a defeatist mode, that it is better to lose N4 billion and block the theft so that Nigeria can meet up her OPEC quota, than not pay the surveillance fee and still not be able to export more than 700 million bpd.

What they seem to gloss over is tackling those behind the crude oil theft. Three weeks ago, the presidency announced that it knows and will release the names of persons behind the oil theft. I am surprised that such a list can be hoarded from the public whilst the leadership says it wants to fight the thieves. What stops them from naming and shaming those involved? The delay could be interpreted to mean that those stealing the crude are the same persons that are in government or at best they work hand-in-hand.

Already, the NNPC which claimed that about 40,000 barrels of crude are stolen every day, has commissioned an investigation that is bound to reveal even more bizarre findings. No doubt, there is a network of collaboration between security agencies (navy, police, army etc.) and the local and international cartel stealing this crude from Nigeria. It is no news that security personnel lobby to be posted to the creeks, even if it is for just three months, for the obvious rougish gains they are bound to make supervising the pillaging of our commonwealth.

Through the use of technology, the NNPC which set up a Command centre six months ago, can now, at a glance, have a clear view of all the activities that go on in the oil and gas infrastructure, where not less than 35 incidents are recorded daily, from the shallow waters, swamps  to the deep sea goes on in the creeks. They have been able to identify the weak points of compromise, theft etc. but have given the impression that when such intelligence is shared with the Navy, nothing gets done. Many people however believe that the NNPC top brass know a thing or two about the network of thieves that have been stealing our crude. But the best our petroleum ministers can do is to surrender the creek to a single fellow. What a shame!

We cannot be so endowed, yet so impoverished.  The conflict between our endowment and our abject lack is too sharp to be explained away or dismissed by those who claim they are Buharists!

Mamu: When an Intercessor Becomes a Suspect

Eddy Odivwri 

I had always wondered the wisdom behind the free operations of Sheikh Abubakar Gumi and his so-called media adviser, Tukur Mamu. I just did not understand why such persons with deep knowledge and information on the modus operandi of the terrorists were neither interrogated nor courted as a means of breaking into the insecurity enigma in the country.

In my column, last July 29, titled The Nigerian Issues that Bother Me (1), I had written about the fog behind the operations and services of Sheikh Gumi and his Man Friday, Tukur Mamu, thus:

A certain Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, has been the go-between for the bandits. He knows where they are. He negotiates with them. He brings feedback from them. Yet, the Nigerian government is not able to use the Gumi to crack into the hideout of these criminals. I barely can understand this. How come Gumi is able to reach the bandits all the time, but no security operative is able to use Gumi to get to the bandits? What else is called accessory to crime? Few days ago, Gumi’s media aide, Tukur Mamu was on television, giving finite details of the operational modus of the bandits, while ruling out the use of military force to free the train passengers held captive.

Beside the fog around why Gumi is spared, I also worry about how the bandits are able to communicate with the families of the captives regularly, yet the Nigerian government is not able to deploy technology offered by the NIN facility to track and trace the location of the bandits. It is all so befuddling.

With the September 6 eventual arrest of Tukur Mamu, in far away Cairo, Egypt, and the nuggets of information so far released by the Department of State Security (DSS), it is clear that there is more to the “volunteering service” being offered by the duo of Gumi and Mamu.

As I wondered last July 29, it is worrisome that a certain band of terrorists causing the nation sleepless nights and huge resources in foreign currencies is known to Gumi and Mamu. They know where they are, even in the thick forest of deciduous trees. The bandits listen to them. They have their telephone numbers. They understand their modus operandi. The duo practically act as the mouth piece of the bandits, conveying their messages to the rest of Nigerians, especially the federal government and the families of kidnap victims. They negotiate the ransom to be paid to secure the release of the victims. Sometimes, they even receive the ransom themselves and take same to the bandits ensconced in the bush and in turn secure the release of those who have paid. Such a transactional glee!

Does one need to be a security expert to know that there is a fishy connect between the bandits and the duo of Gumi and Mamu?  That the latter have been left unquestioned all the while beats my imagination. 

Now I can better understand why at the turn of every negotiation, he always forbade the use of military operations to free the hostages. Now I understand why he was always persuading the federal government and the families of kidnapped victims to meet the demands of the bandits. Now I understand why he appeared so messianic. More revelations are awaited.

It is very interesting that at the search of Mamu’s home in Kaduna, many incriminating items like army/Navy uniforms, huge sums of money, even in foreign currencies… about N2 billion, financial instruments (like P.O.S machines etc.) were found in his house. 

Hmmmm, he surely has plenty explanations to do. Already, he has made informed statements including naming some persons behind the terrorism menace in the country.

It is curious that a man who claims to be the publisher of little-known Desert Herald could be warehousing such a huge sum in his house. Keeping such sum from the bank is even more curious, as it could trigger a system inquisition if it is lodged in the bank.  That there are military uniforms and other accoutrements are quite telling. 

Also interesting is that the DSS has been granted the permission to keep him for sixty more days (in the first instance) to further its investigation.

But hey, Mamu has a boss. He is Sheikh Gumi. Why is he not in the DSS net too? Gumi, who had always sold the impression of being specially gifted in the issue of Islamic terrorism had actually called on the DSS to either charge Mamu to court or release him with apology.

Yet again, I dare say that if Mamu’s hands are being found to be soiled, Gumi’s fingers cannot be so clean. He should be nabbed!

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