Crude Oil Theft, Organised Crime, The Niger Delta Environment And The National Economy, By Jaye Gaskia



jaye_gaskia 600Let us take a more critical, and much deeper look at the phenomenon of Oil Theft [Crude & Refined products]; its impact on the environment of the Niger Delta in particular, and the Nigerian environment in general; as well as its impact on the national economy and the livelihoods of ordinary impoverished citizens, caught up in this unwholesome tangle of death and destruction.
First, a very quick clarification; I include the fuel subsidy scam as an integral part of the theft of [imported] refined products!
Over the past 3 to 6 years, in particular since the commencement of the Presidential Amnesty program for the Niger Delta, the subsequent inducement of a reduction in armed militancy in the region, and the consequent rise in the incidences of crude oil theft; we have been told by the highest responsible authorities [NNPC, Ministers of Finance & Petroleum Resources, CBN Governor etc] that the country has been losing outrageous quantities of crude oil to oil theft and pipe line vandalisation.
In 2009 and 2010, the figures claimed ranged 100,000 barrels per day to 200,000 barrels per day of crude oil. By 2012 this figure had risen to between 200,000 barrels per day and 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil; and now the figure given for 2013 is 400,000 barrels per day of crude oil lost to oil theft!
There are several reasons to be worried about this trend;
First, this steep increase has occurred during a period when an amnesty program to stem militancy which was impacting adversely on crude oil production and export is in place and running!
second, this steep rise in crude oil theft and the consequent oil pipeline vandalism [which is necessary in order to steal from pipelines], is occurring against the backdrop of at least 5 multibillion naira & multiyear security and surveillance contracts worth close to N30bn annually awarded to ex-militant warlord generals and their ‘boys’/troops!
Third, this daily loss or crude oil theft rate of 400,000 barrels per day is more than the total daily production of some oil producing countries; and also represent between 20% and 25% of our total daily production capacity of between 2 and 2.5 million barrels per day of crude oil.
Fourth, this daily crude oil theft rate of 400,000 barrels per day amounts to an annual revenue loss about $14bn [about N2.24tn]; that is almost half [50%] of the annual Federal budget! This is a colossal loss by any standards!
Fifth, given that this theft requires vandalisation of oil pipelines in order to be able to siphon the product, it is inevitable that there will be significant levels of waste/leakage into the surrounding environment. Now if we assume a conservative waste/leakage/spill rate of 10%; this amounts to a crude oil spill daily spill rate of 40,000 barrels per day, amounting to a cumulative annual spill volume of about 14.4 million barrels of crude oil spilt into the Niger Delta environment as a result of the crude oil theft enterprise annually!
Now given the above scenario, it is important to put this gory picture in context. There are several issues that can be raised, and several deductions that we can make from all of these.
We start by describing the nature of the crime, for there can be no doubt that this is a crime of monumental proportion. A theft of this scale and scope, worth about $14bn annually, requiring the siphoning of 400,000 barrels of crude daily from oil facilities; can be nothing other than the product of organised and systematic crime syndicates. What we are dealing with here are well structured, well connected, and therefore well protected organised crime cartels, similar to the drug cartels of Latin America.
This protection we must now assume comes from connections with state institutions and highly placed personnel in government; otherwise it is inconceivable that a crime on this scale is being committed and only an insignificant number of minions and foot soldiers in the crime syndicates have been arrested, let alone prosecuted.
A loss of 400,000 barrels per day of crude oil require heavy investment in heavy, and efficient equipments including medium to large scale barges and other ocean going/sea faring vessels; large diameter hoses to siphon the product from the point of vandalisation to the point of evacuation etc. All of these require huge resource outlay, as well as top level protection to take place without detection.
Apart from the necessary connivance of institutions of the state and its agencies, as well as state personnel at different levels, for this to happen; it stands to reason that we query the real intention of the maritime, and oil pipeline security and surveillance contracts awarded to ex-Militant warlords and their troops. Are these contracts actually for the security and protection of the oil pipelines and the maritime waters? Or are they in fact part of an elaborate scheme to outsource state protection of the Crude Oil theft syndicate business [and the cartels who run it] to experienced non state actor armed merchants?
Equally significant are the impact on the environment and livelihoods of the poor of this scale of continuous daily spill; as well as the impact of this huge colossal loss on the national economy.
What is the quantum of the devastation wrought by the scale and intensity of this ceaseless uninterrupted oil spill to the environment; to soil fertility and the fecundity of the rivers and ocean in that area? What is the quantum of farmlands, fish ponds, rivers, etc that have been destroyed and rendered unviable for agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture? What is the opportunity cost of this scale of loss to the economy of the Niger Delta and of Nigeria?
How many more hundreds of thousands of households and families of the Niger Delta have been impoverished, or have become securely locked into poverty as a result of this scale of environmental devastation?
And how can oil pollution and oil related environmental devastation have increased this steeply under a Niger Deltan Presidency, under the watch of a President, Petroleum and Finance Ministers of Niger Delta extraction?
This is one more, but very highly significant indication that these elites, who claim to rule in our names, do not rule in our interests!
If this treasury looting, light fingered ruling class is not implicated [directly or indirectly] in this oil theft; if these bands of pirates are not complicit in this grand crime; if these inept but gluttonous ruling elites are not direct and indirect beneficiaries of this epochal theft; is it conceivable that a ruling elite will sit comfortably over a situation where the nation and economy over which it presides looses to criminal acts the equivalent of half of the annual budget of the country each year?
Do we actually require more reasons before we take our destinies into our own hands, and Take Back Nigeria? It is Our Country Folks, Let Us Together Take It Back from These Rampaging Swarm of Locusts!
Organise Now! Mobilise Now!! Act Now!!! Become Part of the effort to build a popular and peoples’ alternative to the political parties of the ruling [ruining] elite class!

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