Oil Thieves on the Prowl

Nigerians scooping oil from a broken pipe
Nigerians scooping oil from a broken pipe

Efforts of the special taskforce to curb pipeline vandalisation are yet to bear fruits as the vandals seem to be having an upper hand

|  By Augustine Adah  |  Dec. 31, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

THE promise by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, to supply adequate petroleum products to every part of the country this yuletide may be a tall dream. The reason is that the activities of oil pipelines vandals are on the increase. Already, the corporation has suspended the supply of oil to Ije-Ododo, Ijegun, Ojo, Local Government Area, where there was an explosion of a pipeline on Monday, December 17. The explosion was caused by some vandals who went there to scoop oil. As at press time, members of the federal and state fire services were still making frantic efforts to put off the fire which has also forced residents to flee the area.

Ibrahim Farinloye, information officer, National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, South-West zone, who confirmed the explosion, stated that fire officials were facing difficulty in quenching the inferno because of lack of adequate equipment. He likened the magnitude of the explosion to that of Arepo, Ogun State, which happened in August this year.

This is not the first time the people of Ijegun would be experiencing explosion as a result of the activities of vandals.  A similar explosion occurred in 2011, which threw the residents of the area in total darkness for more than six months, in addition to the suffering of many people in Lagos due to the scarcity of petroleum products at many filling stations.  And in 2010, no fewer than 10 persons were killed in the area as a result of a pipeline vandalisation.

The Ije-Ododo current incident occurred barely a month after the NNPC was able to repair the system 2B pipelines, at Arepo, which was damaged by vandals who also killed three of its staff in August this year. The staff had gone to the area to repair the pipelines damaged by the vandals. The damage led to the closure of the Atlas Cove depot in Lagos by the Petroleum Products Marketing Company, PPMC. The Atlas Cove Depot supplies imported fuel to Ejigbo, Mosimi in Ogun State, Ore in Ondo State, Ibadan and Ilorin in Oyo and Kwara states, respectively. The closure led to long queues of motorists in many filling stations as a result of acute scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, at several filling stations. Expectedly, this led to increase in intra and inter- state transport fares.

On December 5, the special taskforce on pipeline vandalisation in Lagos arrested five suspects in Ikorodu. Friday Ibadi, the police officer in charge, attributed the arrest to constant surveillance of the force on oil installations. Early this year, Mohammed Abubakar, the inspector general of police, set up the taskforce to complement other security agencies to tackle the menace of pipelines vandals. But this has not stopped the vandals resolve to inflict more pains on Nigerians.

Nasir Imodagbe, manager, public affairs and external relations, PPMC, has, however, promised that the concerned security agencies would increase the patrol of all petroleum pipelines across the country.  He advised Nigerians to stop panicky buying of petroleum products especially PMS as the PPMC had done everything necessary to ensure regular supply of fuel to every part of the country. “We have stepped up fuel supply and distribution to all parts of the country this season,” Imodagbe said.

A member of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, who does not want his name mentioned, has alleged that pipeline vandals were carrying more sophisticated weapons than the security agents. Therefore, he said, it would be difficult for the battle to succeed unless the federal government decided to adequately arm the anti- vandalisation squad and the civil defence corps. “These men are well armed in such a way that the present security agents are not capable to match them,” he said.  He suspected that the subsidy fraudsters might be behind the renewed activities of vandals in recent times.

Sometimes last year, President Goodluck Jonathan signed a pipeline surveillance contract worth N 5.6 billion annually with some firms managed by ex-militants in the Niger-Delta area. The idea was to involve them in the protection of the pipelines, and prevent crude oil theft, which deprives the country of huge oil revenue annually. But it appears, the contract has not been able to stop the activities as cases of oil theft are also said to be on the increase.

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