The Enemy From Within

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Maureen Chigbo, Editor
Maureen Chigbo, Editor

Maureen Chigbo  |

AMIDST the clamour for the National Assembly to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, something more sinister is threatening the well being of the oil and gas sector.  The PIB is all about enhancing the operations of the industry. But even when it is passed, it will not save the country from the threat posed by pipeline vandalisation and crude oil theft which have cost the country about $7 billion.

Pipeline vandalisation and its attendant environmental degradation should be of great concern to every right thinking person of this country. The citizenry ought to take up arms against the pipeline vandals, especially in areas that the problem is endemic in the south-south and south-west Nigeria. The reason is obvious. Each time there is pipeline vandalisation, the people who suffer the immediate dire consequence are not just the vandals but many innocent Nigerians who live within the vicinity, where the vandalised pipelines are situated.

For instance, there was the case of the Jesse crude oil pipeline explosion in 1998, which claimed about 1000 people and almost wiped out an entire community. Just last week, several deaths were recorded in the Arepo area of Ogun State, including about three officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.

Vandalisation and crude oil theft are fast becoming a fad in our country and like the days when cancerous 419 crime hit Nigeria in the 1990s, everybody is taking a cavalier attitude towards it. The worse, is that some people are even trying to be in awe of the devilry of the dare devil vandals who are wont to engage security officials in a powerful shoot out like the incidents that happened recently in Arepo, in Ogun State, where early responders from the NNPC to the explosion were killed and Ije-ododo community in Ojo Local Government Area of Lagos State, where about 10 people died Monday, last week.

The sad thing about pipeline vandalisation is not just the unquantifiable cost of human beings that are more often than not burnt beyond recognition in some cases, but also the leakage in the revenue of the country. In less than one week after the vital system 2B pipeline was restored after extensive repair work on the ruptured Arepo point, the NNPC has been compelled to shut the line again owing to the attack on the Ije-ododo point. This year alone, the country has witnessed more than 774 break points since August 2012 from Atlas Cove to Ilorin depot.

Between Atlas Cove and Mosimi depot, 181 break points have been recorded, from Mosimi to Ibadan, 421 ruptured points while Mosimi to Ore recorded 50 vandalised points. Also between Ibadan and Ilorin, there are a total of 122 break points. Records indicate that with the incessant attacks on the nation’s vast artery of pipelines, the NNPC is now compelled to distribute about 70 percent of the petroleum products through trucking or what is known in industry parlance as “bridging” into the hinterlands. This requires massive fleets of petroleum product trucks of up to 1,212 trucks to load out from the depots every day to meet the daily estimated national consumption. Needless to point out that it is more expensive for the country to transport petroleum products by trucks.

At an average vehicle turnaround of about eight to 10 days from the South to the North and back, a minimum of 10,000 trucks are required to ply the roads daily.  It should be left to everyone who plies major roads in the country to imagine the kind of hazard the tankers pose. There have been cases of accidents involving trucks carrying petroleum products which caused fire that claimed lives such as the multiple accidents in June along Lagos-Ibadan expressway, which claimed about five lives and property worth millions of naira including cars and houses in the neigbhourhood where the accident happened.

Against this background, one can understand why Andrew Yakubu, group managing director of the NNPC, said last week, that “PIB or no PIB, privatisation or no privatisation, no industry can survive under this kind of arrangement.” Yes, this festering national malaise can wreck the main source of revenue generation in the country. This is why urgent action is needed to arrest the situation because if pipeline vandalisation is left unchecked, the nefarious activities of marauders could cripple the smooth operation of the downstream sector of the industry. This is also why conscientious people must heed the call by Yakubu that Nigerians across board from the community to the local government and up to the state government level should embrace the protection of pipelines. As Yakubu put it: “These are critical national assets and we must begin to see them in that light.’’

— Dec. 31, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

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