The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation denies being privy to the rumoured proposal by the federal government to set up a Pipeline Protection Commission
| By Anayo Ezugwu |
AMIDST the recommendations of Steve Oronsaye’s presidential committee to merge or scrap some government ministries, departments and agencies in order to cut the cost of governance, some groups are still calling on the federal government to establish more agencies. One of such new agencies is the Pipelines Protection Agency. The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, NUPENG and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, PENGASSAN, are in the vanguard of this campaign.
Isaac Aberare, acting general secretary of the union, said that the agency should be vested with the responsibility of manning, protecting and providing security for more than, 5,150 kilometre-stretch of oil pipelines criss-crossing the nooks and crannies of the country. “The union is not happy with the attitude of people who vandalise oil pipelines for pecuniary gains. The federal government should also equip the agency with helicopter gun-ships, gun-boats, specially trained men and women to police the pipelines in the country because the present arrangement of using the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps has not yielded any positive result and the country continues to lose billions of crude and refined products to vandals as well as lives of its citizenry,” he said.
The two unions had earlier threatened to suspend their services if the rate of oil theft in the country is not checked. They also threatened that the workers would stop the supply of petroleum products if there was no end to the organised destruction of oil installations in the country. According to them, the country lost between $6 billion and $12 billion every year to oil bunkering and illegal refining. There are indications that the federal government is positively inclined to call to set up a new agency to protect oil pipelines.
Meanwhile, Nigerians are becoming increasingly worried over the multiplicity of agencies and the duplication of their roles. Investigations by Realnews have revealed that role duplication by these agencies has weakened government control over them and consequently contributed to corruption and ineffectiveness in governance. Olusegun Obasanjo, former president, was among those who criticised the government’s plan to create any new agency. He said the proposed Pipeline Protection Agency by the federal government to combat pipelines vandalism was unnecessary, describing it as an avenue for ‘chop-chop.’
Obasanjo wondered why the government would conceive the idea of setting up a special commission to combat pipelines vandalism despite the existence of the Nigeria Police and other security agencies. “This morning, I was coming from Abeokuta and I was listening to the radio, I heard that they are going to setup an agency for pipeline protection; what are the police there for? What are all the security agencies that we have there for? Another ‘chop-chop’,” he said.
But, Steven Alumona, a sociologist, at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, has attributed the present multiplicity of agencies to lack of a clear focus in the control and prevention of crime in the country. He stated that having more than one agency doing the same thing was not a source of concern as long as these agencies had legitimate mandates and were provided for by the law and their responsibilities clearly stated.
“Most people assume that by merely creating a security agency, all issues of concern are resolved. This is not correct. There is need for adequate and meaningful planning to include not just a strategy but logical framework and work plans. As such, it is not about how many agencies are in place or how many officers are employed; it is about the methodology and approach adopted to realise the set objectives. So, I am convinced that our problem is not the number of agencies but that no one has so far been able to make the existing agencies to deliver on their mandate and no one has been able to call them to account for their inability to provide a minimum quality of service expected by Nigerians,” he said.
But the managements of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and Pipelines and Products Marketing Company, PPMC, have refuted the claim saying that there is no plan to set up a pipelines protection agency. Tumini Green, acting group general manager, group public affairs division, NNPC, said the NNPC and its downstream subsidiary, the PPMC, are not privy to any plan by the federal government to set up an agency or commission to protect the pipelines as reported.
“This clarification has become necessary against the backdrop of reports claiming that the corporation has confirmed that there are plans to set up a pipelines protection agency. For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state emphatically that no member of the corporation’s top management has attended any meeting where the idea to set up a Pipelines Protection Commission or any agency by whatsoever name to protect the nation’s pipelines was mooted. Any report claiming that the corporation is aware of such proposal or in support of it is a figment of the imagination of the reporter,” Green said.