Oil theft: New Nigeria Foundation demands urgent intervention

A non-governmental organisation, New Nigerian Foundation (NNF), has called on stakeholders in the oil and gas sector, the Federal Government as well as the media to work towards curbing the menace of oil theft in the country.

The foundation, while lamenting the security costs, environmental damage and loss of investments in the Niger Delta region as a consequence of oil theft, revealed that an estimated $55 billion dollars had been lost to the sabotage over the last decade.

According to OilPrice.com, Nigeria ranked Number 1 in the top five countries with the highest oil theft in 2014. As much as 400,000 barrels of oil a day are stolen in Nigeria through pipeline or wellheads theft, Illegal bunkering and over lifting

Speaking on the development in Lagos to sensitise the media about crude oil theft and solicit support to create public awareness, stimulate public debates around the issues and attract government’s attention and action, the Senior Programmes Manager, NNF, Mrs. Chikodi Chiedo,  said research puts the current economic loss due to oil theft at N995.2bn for 2018, saying that amount was greater than the combined allocations for health and education in the 2018 budget.

According to her, “with land mass of approximately 70,000km, a total of 7.5 per cent of the country is affected by environmental degradation due to oil theft. Oil theft has led to a loss of 7,500km of rain and mangrove forest. The heavy end of crude that cannot be refined is dumped into the environment.  Poor refining techniques and nonchalant disposal of waste further pollute streams and creeks in the Delta.

“The Ogoniland cleanup is estimated to cost $1 billion for about 1000km of land, an almost insignificant fraction of the 70,000km of the Delta. The project is likely to take over two decades before Ogoniland is fully restored.”

She pointed out that the menace had also impacted on the environment negatively with school enrolment figures in the Niger Delta declining as many youths abandoned formal education to become refiners, product marketers, security guards and transporters of stolen crude.

The programme officer observed that the huge health risk associated with close proximity to oil theft had terribly impacted the lives of the people with even life expectancy dropping to just 40 years compared to 54.5 years national average.

“Contaminated food with high levels of traceable metals and hydrocarbons poses another health risk for the people in the Niger Delta.

“The presence of bush refineries has caused issues in local communities because it leads to the formation of rivaling gangs who often clash within local communities, she added.

Speaking on the cost implication to Federal Government for maintaining security presence around the region just to curb the menace, she said the Joint Task Force had cost the Nigerian government a sizeable amount of money, directly and indirectly, despite the team turning a blind eye and compromising on their assignment.

“Over the last two years, the Nigerian army has spent ₦657.1 billion on operations to keep peace within the country. It is widely speculated that JTF officers often turn a blind eye to oil theft in return for a fee. Oil thieves buy the “right” to operate on pipelines from JTF officers patrolling that area and host community leaders.

“Oil theft is a scourge that has grown into a cancer and undermines the safety of the environment; has numerous economic and social implications and has continued to rise. It poses serious challenges to the country.  The illicit business has hampered the development of the economy and something needs to be done to tackle it,” she noted.

Calling on everybody to raise awareness on the dangers in oil theft to the environment and the economy, she described the situation as a complex problem with economic, environmental and security implications for Nigeria as a whole.

According to her, “oil theft has grown from a localised, small scale activity into a multi-million-dollar illegal industry involving many stakeholders. Most observers agree that it has risen steadily in the last 10 years, peaked between 2011 and 2014; with estimated losses of up to $15.9 billion in 2014.

“Oil theft is extremely profitable and also highly competitive, which increases its element of violence. Proceeds from oil theft are a key source of funding that can support armed groups, thus threatening the stability of the region and the entire country. Resolving the issue of oil theft is therefore crucial to the long-term stability and economic development of the Niger Delta and Nigeria.”

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