Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) at the weekend revealed that oil thieves were deceiving innocent artisanal Nigerians into taking jobs in illegal refineries by telling them that they were going to work in modular refineries.
The General Manager National Investment Management Service (NAPIMS) a subsidiary of NNPC, Bala Wunti, made this startling revelation when he took the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed through the operation of the NNPC Command Centre Control Room in Abuja, set up in March 2022, to conduct real-time monitoring and tracking of oil vessels in the nation’s exclusive zone as well as oil terminals and other infrastructure in the Niger Delta.
He said they also discovered from routine investigations that some of the artisanal workers had employment letters.
“The irony is that we discovered that some of them even have employment letters. They said they gave them letters to come and work in modular refineries and the people they bring are people who don’t know what a refinery is.
“They say this is modular and that is where they are working. And they get them from all over the place. There is federal character there. They deceive them that they are going to work legitimately in a legal refinery. The people don’t know the difference.
“Almost 30 to 40 per cent of them are just coming for daily job. They think this people have the license to do what they are doing and they think this a normal thing they are doing,” Wunti said.
He said the country was losing an unprecedented 700,000 barrels per day of oil through pilfering, sabotage and production shut in causing the country huge loss of revenue and impacting on the host communities’ environment and causing job losses.
Wunti also said significant improvements were being recorded through collaboration with government security agencies in the handling of the crisis.
He said criminals who vandalise pipelines collect the crude and put them inside the pits and boil the crude into small degree to extract diesels, which is subsequently bagged and sold off in improvised bags which are capable of floating on water rather than jerry cans.
Wunti also told the minister that the criminals were threatening Niger Delta elders and community leaders attempting to caution them to desist from the criminal tendencies. He said the threat had also forced many such community leaders to leave their communities.
He said the NNPC now has the capability and technology to see live view, what goes on at the pipelines from the comfort of the control room, which is manned by young Nigerian software engineers.
He added everyday everything detected in the control room was catalogued and reported to the security agencies.
He said the security agencies have avoided carrying out aerial bombardment of the illegal sites or outright shooting of the vandals to mitigate casualties as a full scale military action was capable of igniting fire in the area.